Rossetti translations of Dante and Sacchetti.

Sappho and Rossetti.



(Rossetti's Translation.)

"DEATH! since I find not one with whom to grieve,
Nor whom this grief of mine may move to tears,
Whereso I be or whitherso I turn, --
Since it is thou who in my soul wilt leave
No single joy, but chill'st it with just fears
And makest it in fruitless hopes to burn, --
Since thou, Death! and thou only, canst decern
Wealth to my life, or want, at thy free choice, --
It is to thee that I lift up my voice,
Bowing my face that's like a face just dead.
I come to thee, as to One pitying,
In grief for that sweet rest that naught can bring
Again, if thou but once be entered
Into her life whom my heart cherishes
Even as the only portal of its peace.

Death! how most sweet the peace is that thy grace
Can grant to me, and that I pray thee for,
Thou easily may'st know by a sure sign,
If in mine eyes thou look a little space
And read in them the hidden dread they store, --
If upon all thou look which proves me thine.
Since the fear only maketh me to pine
After this sort, what will mine anguish be
When her eyes close, of dreadful verity,
In whose light is the light of mine own eyes?
But now I know that thou wouldst have my life
As hers, and joy'st thee in my fruitless strife.
Yet I do think this which I feel implies
That soon, when I would die to flee from pain,
I shall find none by whom I may be slain.

Death! if indeed thou smite this Gentle One,
Whose outward worth but tells the intellect
How wondrous is the miracle within,
Thou biddest Virtue rise up and be gone,
Thou dost away with Mercy's best effect.
Thou spoil'st the mansion of God's sojourning;
Yea! unto naught her beauty thou dost bring
Which is above all other beauties, even
In so much as befitted One whom Heaven
Sent upon earth in token of its own.
Thou dost break through the perfect trust which hath
Been always her companion in Love's path:
The light once darkened which was hers alone,
Love needs must say to them he ruleth o'er --
" I have lost the noble banner that I bore."

Death! have some pity then for all the ill
Which cannot choose but happen if she die,
And which will be the sorest ever known!
Slacken the string, if so it be thy will,
That the sharp arrow leave it not! thereby
Sparing her life, which if it flies is flown.
0 Death! for God's sake be some pity shown!
Restrain within thyself, even at its height,
The cruel wrath which moveth thee to smite
Her in whom God hath set so much of grace!
Show now some ruth, if 'tis a thing thou hast!
I seem to see Heaven's gate, that is shut fast,
Open, and angels filling all the space
About me: come to fetch her soul whose laud
Is sung by saints and angels before God.

Song! thou must surely see how fine a thread
This is that my last hope is holden by,
And what I should be brought to without her.
Therefore for thy plain speech and lowlihead
Make thou no pause! but go immediately
(Knowing thyself for my heart's minister)
And, with that very meek and piteous air
Thou hast, stand up before the face of Death,
To wrench away the bar that prisoneth
And win unto the place of the good fruit!
And if indeed thou shake by thy soft voice
Death's mortal purpose, - haste thee and rejoice
Our Lady with the issue of thy suit!
So yet awhile our earthly nights and days
Shall keep the blessed spirit that I praise.


(Rossetti's Translation.)

Two ladies to the summit of my mind
Have clomb, to hold an argument of love:
The one has wisdom with her from above,
For every noblest virtue well designed;
The other beauty's tempting power refined
And the .high charm of perfect grace approve;
And I, as my sweet Master's will doth move,
At feet of both their favors am reclined.
Beauty and Duty in my soul keep strife,
At question if the heart such course can take
And 'twixt two ladies hold its love complete.
The fount ot gentle speech yields answer meet:
That Beauty may be loved for gladness' sake,
And Duty in the lofty ends of life.


(Rossetti's Translation.)

The eyes that weep for pity of the heart
Have wept so long that their grief languisheth,
And they have no more tears to weep withal:
And now, if I would ease me of a part
Of what, little by little, leads to death,
It must be done by speech, or not at all.
And because often, thinking, I recall
How it was pleasant, ere she went afar,
To talk of her with you, kind damozels !
I talk with no one else,
But only with such hearts as women's are.
And I will say,-still sobbing as speech fails, --
That she hath gone to Heaven suddenly,
And hath left Love below to mourn with me.

Beatrice hath gone up into high Heaven,
The kingdom where the angels are at peace,
And lives with them, and to her friends is dead.
Not by the frost of winter was she 'driven
Away, like others; nor by summer heats;
But through a perfect gentleness instead.
For from the lamp of her meek lowlihead
Such an exceeding glory went up hence
That it woke wonder in the Eternal Sire,
Until a sweet desire
Entered him for that lovely excellence, --
So that He bade her to Himself aspire:
Counting this evil and most weary place
Unworthy of a thing so full of grace.

WonderfulIy out of the beautiful form
Soared her clear spirit, waxing glad the while;
And is in its first home, there where it is.
Who speaks thereof, and feels not the tears warm
Upon his face, must have become so vile
As to be dead to all sweet sympathies.
Out upon him! an abject wretch like this
May not imagine anything of her, --
He needs no bitter tears for his relief.
But sighing comes, and grief,
And the desire to find no comforter
(Save only Death, who makes all sorrow brief),
To him who for a whiie turns in his thought
How she hath been amongst us, and is not.

With sighs my bosom always laboreth
In thinking, as I do continually,
Of her for whom my heart now breaks apace;
And very often, when I think of death,
Such a great inward longing comes to me
That-it will change the color of my face;
And, if the idea settles in its place,
All my limbs shake as with an ague fit;
Till, starting up in wild bewilderment,
I do become so shent
That I go forth, lest folk misdoubt of it.
Afterward, calling with a sore lament
On Beatrice, I ask, - " Canst thou be dead?"
And calling on her I am comforted.

Grief with its tears, and anguish with its sighs,
Come to me now whene'er I am alone;
So that I think the sight of me gives pain.
And what my life hath been, that living dies,
Since for my Lady the New Birth's begun,
I have not any language to explain.
And so, dear ladies! though my heart were fain,
I scarce could tell indeed how I am thus.
All joy is with my bitter life at war;
Yea! I am fallen so far
That all men seem to say - "Go out from us !"
Eying my cold white lips, how dead they are.
But She, though I be bowed unto the dust,
Watches me, and will guerdon me, I trust.

Weep, pitiful Song of mine! upon thy way,
To thi' dames going and the damozels
For whom, and for none else,
Thy sisters have made music many a day.
Thou! that art very sad and not as they,
Go dwell thou with them as a mourner dwells!

On a wet day.

by Franco Sacchetti ( c1330 - 1400 ).
Rossetti's translation


As I walked thinking through a little grove,
Some girls that gathered flowers came passing me,
Saying -- "Look here! look there!" delightedly.
"O here it is!" "What's that?" "A lily? love!"
"And there are violets!"
"Farther for roses! O the lovely pets!
The darling beauties! O the nasty thorn!
Look here, my hand's all torn!"
"What's that that jumps?" "O don't! It's a grasshopper!"
"Come, run! come, run!
Here's bluebells!" "O what fun!"
"Not that way! Stop her!"
"Yes! this way!" Pluck them then!"
"O, I've found mushrooms! O look here!" "O, I'm
Quite sure that farther on we'll get wild thyme."

"O, we shall stay too long; it's going to rain;
There's lightning; O! there's thunder!"
"O shan't we hear the vesper bell? I wonder."
"Why, it's not nones, you silly little thing!
And don't you hear the nightingales that sing --
Fly away, O die away?"
"O, I hear something; hush!"
"Why, where? what is it then?" "Ah! in that bush."
So every girl here knocks it, shakes and shocks it:
Till with the stir they make
Out scurries a great snake.
"O Lord! O me! Alack! Ah me! Alack!"
They scream, and then all run and scream again,
And then in heavy drops comes down the rain.

Each running at the other in a fright,
Each trying to get before the other, and crying,
And flying, and stumbling, tumbling, wrong or right; --
One sets her knee
There where her foot should be;
One has her hands and dress
All smothered up with mud in a fine mess;
And one gets trampled on by two or three.
What's gathered is let fall
About the wood, and not picked up at all.
The wreaths of flowers are scattered on the ground,
And still as, screaming, hustling, without rest,
They run this way and that and round and round,
She thinks herself in luck who runs the best.

I stood quite still to have a perfect view,
And never noticed till I got wet through.



THE lost days of my life until to-day,
What were they, could I see them on the street
Lie as they fell? Would they be ears of wheat
Sown once for food but trodden into clay?
Or golden coins squandered and still to pay?
Or drops of blood dabbling the guilty feet?
Or such spilt water as in dreams must cheat
The undying throats of Hell, athirst alway?

I do not see them here; but after death
God knows I know the faces I shall see,
Each one a murdered self, with low last breath.
"I am thyself, -- what hast thou done to me?"
" And I -- and I -- thyself," (lo! each one saith,)
"And thou thyself to all eternity!"

Self-portrait of Dante Gabriel Rossetti





LIKE the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough,
Atop on the topmost twig,--which the pluckers forgot, somehow,
Forgot it not, nay, but got it not, for none could get it till now.


Like the wild hyacinth flower which on the hills is found,
Which the passing feet of the shepherds forever tear and wound,
Until the purple blossom is trodden into the ground.

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