I Swear to You Love By Your Arrows

Gaspara Stampa
Italian
1523 – 1554

 

I swear to you, Love, by your arrows,
And by your powerful holy flame,
I care not if by one I-m maimed,
My heart burned, wasted by the other:
However far through times past or coming,
There never was nor will be woman
Whomever of them you wish to name,
Could know such sharpness, such devouring:

For there-s a virtue born from suffering,
That dims and conquers the sense of pain,
So that it-s barely felt, seems scarcely hurting.
No! This, that torments soul and body again,
This is the real fear presaging my dying:
What if my fire be only straw and flame?

 

Translation by A.S. Kline

I Live on This Depraved and Lonely Cliff

Vittoria Colonna
Italian
1492 – 1547

I live on this depraved and lonely cliff
like a sad bird abhorring a green tree
or splashing water. I move forcefully
away from those I love, and I am stiff
even before myself so that my thoughts
may rise and fly to him: sun I adore
and worship. Though their wings could hurry more,
they race only to him. The forest rots
until the instant when they reach that place.
Then deep in ecstasy, though quick, they feel
a joy beyond all earthly joy. I reel,
and yet if they could recreate his face
as my mind craving and consuming would,
then here perhaps I’d own the perfect good.

Translation by Willis Barnstone

Those Like Me

Alda Merini
Italian
1931 – 2009

 

Those like me hand out dreams, even at the cost of being left dreamless…
Those like me give away their soul, because a soul is like a drop of water in the desert.
Those like me stretch out a hand and help you get up,
while running the risk of falling in turn.
Those like me look ahead,
even if their heart is some steps behind
Those like me search for a meaning to existence and, on finding it,
try to impart it to the ones who just survive.
Those like me, when in love, love forever.
and if they stop, it’s only because small fragments of being
lie powerless in the hands of life.
Those like me pursue the dream
of being loved for what they are
and not for what they are expected to be.
Those like me travel the world striving for values that
human souls have long forgotten
Those like me would really like to change,
but this would mean to be born again.
Those like me scream in silence,
so that their voice is not confused with tears.
Those like me are women whose hearts you are definitely going to break
because you know they’ll let you go, without a question.
Those like me love too much, even knowing that, in return,
they’ll receive nothing but crumbs.
Those like me feed on little and sadly build their existence on it
Those like me go unnoticed,
but they are the only women that will really love you
Those like me are the ones that, in the autumn of your life,
you will regret for what they might have given you
and you didn’t accept…

Love and the Gentle Heart

Dante Alighieri
Italian
1265 – 1321

 

Love and the gentle heart are one thing,
just as the poet says in his verse,
each from the other one as well divorced
as reason from the mind’s reasoning.

Nature craves love, and then creates love king,
and makes the heart a palace where he’ll stay,
perhaps a shorter or a longer day,
breathing quietly, gently slumbering.

Then beauty in a virtuous woman’s face
makes the eyes yearn, and strikes the heart,
so that the eyes’ desire’s reborn again,
and often, rooting there with longing, stays,

Till love, at last, out of its dreaming starts.
Woman’s moved likewise by a virtuous man.