Francesco Petrarca

Petrarch’s Poem 269, from Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, translated from Italian by Lee Harlin Bahan
January 24, 2022 Petrarca Francesco

Petrarch’s Poem 269, from Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, translated from Italian by Lee Harlin Bahan


December 30: The speaker misses Colonna and Laura who
                        died, respectively, in July and April of 1348


The high column and the green laurel
which shaded my exhausted thoughts are broken:
I’ve lost what I don’t hope to find from Pole
to Pole or from India’s shores to Morocco.


You’ve confiscated, Death, my double treasure
which made me glad to live and walk tall,
and neither land nor empire can restore,
nor gems from the East nor the leverage of gold.


But if destiny consents to something,
what can I have beside a sad soul,
wet eyes all the time, my head hung?


O life of ours, looking to be so beautiful,
how handily you scuttle in one morning
what was acquired in many years of deep suffering.



Rotta è l’alta colonna e ‘l verde lauro
che facean ombra al mio stanco pensero;
perduto ò quel che ritrovar non spero
dal borea a l’austro, o dal mar indo al mauro.
Tolto m’ài, Morte, il mio doppio tesauro
che mi fea viver lieto et gire altero,
et ristorar nol po terra né impero,
né gemma oriental né forza d’auro.
Ma se consentimento è di destino,
che posso io più se no aver l’alma trista,
umidi gli occhi sempre, e ‘l viso chino?
O nostra vita ch’ è sì bella in vista,
com’ perde agevolmente in un matino
quel che ‘n molti anni a gran pena s’acquista.

Francesco Petrarca, anglicized Petrarch, 1304-1374, was the son of Italian refugees who settled near Avignon, France. There, Petrarch claims, he first saw the lovely, wedded, devout Laura at Good Friday mass in 1327. Laureated in 1341 in Rome, Petrarch spent the rest of his life completing his masterpiece in the language of Italy’s common people, ironically titled in Latin, Rerum vulgarium fragmenta. Also dubbed Canzoniere or Rime sparse, its 366 poems chronicle the speaker’s frustrated love for Laura on earth and long after she died of bubonic plague, the pandemic of Petrarch’s time.