from A Versified Autobiography

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 240th birthday.

Gabriele Rossetti
1783 – 1854


Thrilled by the first Phœbean impulses,
Rough versicles I traced with facile hand:
And yet, to my surprise, those lines of mine
Almost took wing into a distant flight.
A hope of Pindus did I hear me named:
But praise increased my ardour, not my pride.
And yet some vanity there came and mixed
With the fair issue of my preluding:
But, all the more I heard the applause increase,
With equal force did study grow in me.
Not surely that I tried to load my page
With pomp abstruse extraneous to my drift;
But counterwise each image and each rhyme,
The more spontaneous, so meseemed more fair.
In trump of gold and in the oaten pipe
Let some seek the sublime, I seek for ease.
I shunned those verses which sprawl forth untuned
Even from my days of schoolboy tutelage:
I know they please some people, but not me:
Admiring Dante, Metastasio
I laud; and hold—a true Italian ear
Must not admit one inharmonious verse.
Some lines require a very surgeon’s hand
To make them upon crutches stand afoot.
So be they! But, to set them musical,
They must, by Heaven, be in themselves a song.
This seems a truthful, not a jibing, rule—
Music and lyric are a twinborn thing.
Yet think not that I deem me satisfied
With upblown empty sound without ideas:—
Then will a harmony be beautiful
When great emotions and great thoughts it stirs.

Translation by William Michael Rossetti

One thought on “from A Versified Autobiography

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