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.
To the Virgin Mary
By Petrarch (1304–1374)
“Vergine bella che di sol vestita”

Translation of Robert Guthrie Macgregor

    BEAUTIFUL VIRGIN! clothèd with the sun,
    Crowned with the stars, who so the eternal sun
    Well pleasèdst that in thine his light he hid;
    Love pricks me on to utter speech of thee,
    And—feeble to commence without thy aid—        5
    Of Him who on thy bosom rests in love.
    Her I invoke who gracious still replies
            To all who ask in faith:
            Virgin! if ever yet
    The misery of man and mortal things        10
    To mercy moved thee, to my prayer incline;
            Help me in this my strife,
Though I am but of dust, and thou heaven’s radiant Queen!
    Wise Virgin! of that lovely number one,—
            Of virgins blest and wise        15
    Even the first, and with the brightest lamp:
    O solid buckler of afflicted hearts!
    ’Neath which against the blows of fate and death,
    Not mere deliverance but great victory is;
    Relief from the blind ardor which consumes        20
            Vain mortals here below!
            Virgin! those lustrous eyes,
    Which tearfully beheld the cruel prints
    In the fair limbs of thy beloved Son,
            Ah! turn on my sad doubt,        25
Who friendless, helpless thus, for counsel come to thee!
    O Virgin! pure and perfect in each part,
    Maiden or Mother, from thy honored birth,
    This life to lighten and the next adorn;
    O bright and lofty gate of opened heaven!        30
    By thee, thy Son, and His the Almighty Sire,
    In our worst need to save us came below:
    And from amid all other earthly seats,
            Thou only wert elect,
            Virgin supremely blest!        35
    The tears of Eve who turnedst into joy;
    Make me, thou canst, yet worthy of his grace,
            Oh, happy without end,
Who art in highest heaven a saint immortal shrined!
    O holy Virgin! full of every good,        40
    Who, in humility most deep and true,
    To heaven art mounted, thence my prayers to hear,
    That fountain thou of pity didst produce,
    That sun of justice, light, which calms and clears
    Our age, else clogged with errors dark and foul.        45
    Three sweet and precious names in thee combine,
            Of mother, daughter, wife,
            Virgin! with glory crowned,
    Queen of that King who has unloosed our bonds,
    And free and happy made the world again,        50
            By whose most sacred wounds
I pray my heart to fix where true joys only are!
    Virgin! of all unparalleled, alone,
    Who with thy beauties hast enamored heaven,
    Whose like has never been, nor e’er shall be;        55
    For holy thoughts with chaste and pious acts
    To the true God a sacred living shrine
    In thy fecund virginity have made.
    By thee, dear Mary, yet my life may be
            Happy, if to thy prayers,        60
            O Virgin meek and mild!
    Where sin abounded grace shall more abound!
    With bended knee and broken heart I pray
            That thou my guide wouldst be,
And to such prosperous end direct my faltering way.        65
    Bright Virgin! and immutable as bright,
    O’er life’s tempestuous ocean the sure star
    Each trusting mariner that truly guides,—
    Look down, and see amid this dreadful storm
    How I am tost at random and alone,        70
    And how already my last shriek is near;
    Yet still in thee, sinful although and vile
            My soul keeps all her trust:
            Virgin! I thee implore,
    Let not thy foe have triumph in my fall;        75
    Remember that our sin made God himself,
            To free us from its chain,
Within thy virgin womb our image on him take!
    Virgin! what tears already have I shed,
    Cherished what dreams and breathed what prayers in vain,        80
    But for my own worse penance and sure loss:
    Since first on Arno’s shore I saw the light
    Till now, whate’er I sought, wherever turned,
    My life has passed in torment and in tears;
    For mortal loveliness in air, act, speech,        85
            Has seized and soiled my soul:
            O Virgin! pure and good,
    Delay not till I reach my life’s last year;
    Swifter than shaft and shuttle are, my days
            ’Mid misery and sin        90
Have vanished all, and now death only is behind!
    Virgin! She now is dust who living held
    My heart in grief, and plunged it since in gloom;
    She knew not of my many ills this one,—
    And had she known, what since befell me still        95
    Had been the same, for every other wish
    Was death to me and ill renown for her;
    But, Queen of heaven, our Goddess,—if to thee
            Such homage be not sin,—
            Virgin! of matchless mind,        100
    Thou knowest now the whole; and that which else
    No other can, is naught to thy great power:
            Deign then my grief to end,—
Thus honor shall be thine, and safe my peace at last!
    Virgin! in whom I fix my every hope,        105
    Who canst and willst assist me in great need,
    Forsake me not in this my worst extreme:
    Regard not me, but Him who made me thus;
    Let his high image stamped on my poor worth
    Towards one so low and lost thy pity move.        110
    Medusa spells have made me as a rock
            Distilling a vain flood:
            Virgin! my harassed heart
    With pure and pious tears do thou fulfill,
    That its last sigh at least may be devout,        115
            And free from earthly taint
As was my earliest vow ere madness filled my veins!
    Virgin! benevolent, and foe of pride,
    Ah! let the love of our one Author win
    Some mercy for a contrite humble heart;        120
    For if her poor frail mortal dust I loved
    With loyalty so wonderful and long,
    Much more my faith and gratitude for thee.
    From this my present sad and sunken state
            If by thy help I rise,        125
            Virgin! to thy dear name
    I consecrate and cleanse my thoughts, speech, pen,
    My mind, and heart with all its tears and sighs;
            Point then that better path,
And with complacence view my changed desires at last.        130
    The day must come, nor distant far its date,
            Time flies so swift and sure,
            Oh, peerless and alone!
    When death my heart, now conscience-struck, shall seize;
    Commend me, Virgin! then to thy dear Son,        135
            True God and Very Man,
That my last sigh in peace may in his arms be breathed!

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