Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Canzon of Life
By Luís de Camões (c. 1524–1580)
Translation of Sir Richard Francis Burton

COME here! my confidential Secretary
  Of the complaints in which my days are rife,
Paper,—whereon I gar my griefs o’erflow.
  Tell we, we twain, Unreasons which in life
Deal me inexorable, contrary        5
    Destinies surd to prayer and tearful woe.
    Dash we some water-drops on muchel lowe,
  Fire we with outcries storm of rage so rare
That shall be strange to mortal memory.
      Such misery tell we        10
To God and Man, and eke, in fine, to air,
Whereto so many times did I confide
  My tale and vainly told as I now tell;
    But e’en as error was my birthtide-lot,
    That this be one of many doubt I not.        15
  And as to hit the butt so far I fail
E’en if I sinnèd her cease they to chide:
Within mine only Refuge will I ’bide
To speak and faultless sin with free intent.
Sad he so scanty mercies must content!        20
Long I’ve unlearnt me that complaint of dole
  Brings cure of dolours; but a wight in pain
    To greet is forcèd an the grief be great.
  I will outgreet; but weak my voice and vain
To express the sorrows which oppress my soul;        25
    For nor with greeting shall my dole abate.
    Who then shall grant me, to relieve my weight
Of sorrow, flowing tears and infinite sighs
  Equal those miseries my Sprite o’erpower?
      But who at any hour,        30
Can measure miseries with his tears or cries?
I’ll tell, in fine, the love for me design’d
  By wrath and woe and all their sovenance;
    For other dole hath qualities harder, sterner.
    Draw near and hear me each despairing Learner!        35
  And fly the many fed on Esperance
Or wights who fancy Hope will prove her kind;
For Love and Fortune willed, with single mind,
To leave them hopeful, so they comprehend
What measure of unweal in hand they hend.        40
When fro’ man’s primal grave, the mother’s womb,
  New eyes on earth I oped, my hapless star
    To mar my Fortunes ’gan his will enforce;
  And freedom (Free-will given me) to debar:
I learnt a thousand times it was my doom        45
    To know the Better and to work the Worse:
    Then with conforming tormentize to curse
My course of coming years, when cast I round
A boyish eye-glance with a gentle zest,
      It was my Star’s behest        50
A Boy born blind should deal me life-long wound.
Infantine tear-drops wellèd out the deep
  With vague enamoured longings, nameless pine:
    My wailing accents fro’ my cradle-stound
    Already sounded me love-sighing sound.        55
  Thus age and destiny had like design:
For when, peraunter, rocking me to sleep
They sung me Love-songs wherein lovers weep,
Attonce by Nature’s will asleep I fell,
So Melancholy witcht me with her spell!        60
My nurse some Feral was; Fate nilled approve
  By any Woman such a name be tane
    Who gave me breast; nor seemed it suitable.
  Thus was I suckled that my lips indrain
E’en fro’ my childhood venom-draught of Love,        65
    Whereof in later years I drained my fill,
    Till by long custom failed the draught to kill.
Then an Ideal semblance struck my glance
  Of that fere Human deckt with charms in foyson,
    Sweet with the suavest poyson,        70
Who nourisht me with paps of Esperance;
Till later saw mine eyes the original,
  Which of my wildest, maddest appetite
    Makes sinful error sovran and superb.
    Meseems as human form it came disturb,        75
  But scintillating Spirit’s divinest light.
So graceful gait, such port imperial
Were hers, unweal vainglory’d self to weal
When in her sight, whose lively sheen and shade
Exceeded aught and all things Nature made.        80
What new unkindly kind of human pain
  Had Love not only doled for me to dree
    But eke on me was wholly execute?
  Implacable harshness cooling fervency
Of Love-Desire (thought’s very might and main)        85
  Drave me far distant fro’ my settled suit,
  Vext and self-shamed to sight its own pursuit.
Hence sombre shades phantastick born and bred
  Of trifles promising rashest Esperance;
    While boons of happy chance        90
Were likewise feignèd and enfigurèd.
But her despisal wrought me such dismay
  That made my Fancy phrenesy-ward incline,
    Turning to disconcert the guiling lure.
    Here mine ’twas to divine, and hold for sure,        95
  That all was truest Truth I could divine;
And straightway all I said in shame to unsay;
To see whatso I saw in còntrayr way;
In fine, just Reasons seek for jealousy
Yet were the Unreasons eather far to see.        100
I know not how she knew that fared she stealing
  With Eyën-rays mine inner man which flew
    Her-ward with subtlest passage through the eyne
  Little by little all fro’ me she drew,
E’en as from rain-wet canopy, exhaling        105
    The subtle humours, sucks the hot sunshine.
    The pure transparent geste and mien, in fine,
Wherefore inadequate were and lacking sense
“Beauteous” and “Belle” were words withouten weight;
      The soft, compassionate        110
Eye-glance that held the spirit in suspense:
Such were the magick herbs the Heavens all-wise
  Drave me a draught to drain, and for long years
    To other Being my shape and form transmew’d;
    And this transforming with such joy I view’d        115
  That e’en my sorrows snared I with its snares;
And, like the doomèd man, I veiled mine eyes
To hide an evil crescive in such guise;
Like one caressèd and on flattery fed
Of Love, for whom his being was born and bred.        120
Then who mine absent Life hath power to paint
  Wi’ discontent of all I bore in view;
    That Bide, so far from where she had her Bide,
  Speaking, which even what I spake unknew,
Wending, withal unseeing where I went,        125
    And sighing weetless for what cause I sigh’d?
    Then, as those torments last endurance tried,
That dreadful dolour which from Tartarus’s waves
Shot up on earth and racketh more than all,
      Wherefrom shall oft befall        130
It turn to gentle yearning rage that raves?
Then with repine-ful fury fever-high
  Wishing yet wishing not for Love’s surceàse;
    Shifting to other side for vengeänce,
    Desires deprivèd of their esperance,        135
  What now could ever change such ills as these?
Then the fond yearnings for the things gone by,
Pure torment sweet in bitter faculty,
Which from these fiery furies could distill
Sweet tears of Love with pine the soul to thrill?        140
For what excuses lone with self I sought,
  When my suave Love forfended me to find
    Fault in the Thing belovèd and so lovèd?
  Such were the feignèd cures that forged my mind
In fear of torments that for ever taught        145
    Life to support itself by snares approvèd.
    Thus through a goodly part of Life I rovèd,
Wherein if ever joyed I aught content
Short-lived, immodest, flaw-full, without heed,
    ’Twas nothing save the seed        150
That bare me bitter tortures long unspent.
This course continuous dooming to distress,
  These wandering steps that strayed o’er every road
    So wrought, they quencht for me the flamy thirst
    I suffered grow in Sprite, in Soul I nurst        155
  With Thoughts enamoured for my daily food,
Whereby was fed my Nature’s tenderness:
And this by habit’s long and asperous stress,
Which might of mortals never mote resist,
Was turned to pleasure-taste of being triste.        160
Thus fared I Life with other interchanging;
  I no, but Destiny showing fere unlove;
    Yet even thus for other ne’er I’d change.
  Me from my dear-loved patrial nide she drove
Over the broad and boisterous Ocean ranging,        165
    Where Life so often saw her èxtreme range.
    Now tempting rages rare and missiles strange
Of Mart, she willèd that my eyes should see
And hands should touch, the bitter fruit he dight:
      That on this Shield they sight        170
In painted semblance fire of enemy,
Then ferforth driven, vagrant, peregrine,
  Seeing strange nations, customs, tongues, costumes;
    Various heavens, qualities different,
    Only to follow, passing-diligent        175
  Thee, giglet Fortune! whose fierce will consumes
Man’s age upbuilding aye before his eyne
A Hope with semblance of the diamond’s shine:
But, when it falleth out of hand we know,
’Twas fragile glass that showed so glorious show.        180
Failed me the ruth of man, and I descried
  Friends to unfriendly changèd and contràyr,
    In my first peril; and I lackèd ground,
  Whelmed by the second, where my feet could fare;
Air for my breathing was my lot denied,        185
    Time failed me, in fine, and failed me Life’s dull round.
    What darkling secret, mystery profound
This birth to Life, while Life is doomed withhold
Whate’er the world contain for Life to use!
      Yet never Life to lose        190
Though ’twas already lost times manifold!
In brief my Fortune could no horror make,
  Ne certain danger ne ancipitous case
    (Injustice dealt by men, whom wild-confused
    Misrule, that rights of olden days abused,        195
  O’er neighbour-men upraised to power and place!)
I bore not, lashèd to the sturdy stake,
Of my long suffering, which my heart would break
With importuning persecuting harms
Dasht to a thousand bits by forceful arms.        200
Number I not so numerous ills as He
  Who, ’scaped the wuthering wind and furious flood,
    In happy harbour tells his travel-tale;
  Yet now, e’en now, my Fortune’s wavering mood
To so much misery obligeth me        205
    That e’en to pace one forward pace I quail:
    No more shirk I what evils may assail;
No more to falsing welfare I pretend;
For human cunning naught can gar me gain.
      In fine on sovran Strain        210
Of Providence divine I now depend:
This thought, this prospect ’tis at times I greet
  My sole consoler for dead hopes and fears.
    But human weakness when its eyne alight
    Upon the things that fleet, and can but sight        215
  The sadding Memories of the long-past years;
What bread such times I break, what drink I drain,
Are bitter tear-floods I can ne’er refrain,
Save by upbuilding castles based on air,
Phantastick painture fair and false as fair.        220
For an it possible were that Time and Tide
  Could bend them backward and, like Memory, view
    The faded footprints of Life’s earlier day;
  And, web of olden story weaving new,
In sweetest error could my footsteps guide        225
    ’Mid bloom of flowers where wont my youth to stray;
    Then would the memories of the long sad way
Deal me a larger store of Life-content;
Viewing fair converse and glad company,
      Where this and other key        230
She had for opening hearts to new intent;—
The fields, the frequent stroll, the lovely show,
  The view, the snow, the rose, the formosure,
    The soft and gracious mien so gravely gay,
    The singular friendship casting clean away        235
  All villein longings, earthly and impure,
As one whose Other I can never see;—
Ah, vain, vain memories! whither lead ye me
With this weak heart that still must toil and tire
To tame (as tame it should) your vain Desire?        240
No more, Canzon! no more: for I could prate
  Sans compt a thousand years; and if befall
    Blame to thine over-large and long-drawn strain
    We ne’er shall see (assure who blames) contain
  An Ocean’s water packt in vase so small,        245
Nor sing I delicate lines in softest tone
For gust of praise; my song to man makes known
Pure Truth wherewith mine own Experience teems;
Would God they were the stuff that builds our dreams!

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.