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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

To the Princes of Italy, Exhorting them to Set her Free

By Petrarch (1304–1374)

“Italia mia, benchè ’l parlar sia indarno”

Translation of Barbarina, Lady Dacre

O MY own Italy! though words are vain

The mortal wounds to close,

Unnumbered, that thy beauteous bosom stain,

Yet may it soothe my pain

To sigh forth Tiber’s woes,

And Arno’s wrongs, as on Po’s saddened shore

Sorrowing I wander, and my numbers pour.

Ruler of heaven! By the all-pitying love

That could thy Godhead move

To dwell a lowly sojourner on earth,

Turn, Lord! on this thy chosen land thine eye:

See, God of Charity!

From what light cause this cruel war has birth;

And the hard hearts by savage discord steeled,

Thou, Father! from on high,

Touch by my humble voice, that stubborn wrath may yield!

Ye, to whose sovereign hands the fates confide

Of this fair land the reins,—

(This land for which no pity wrings your breast,)—

Why does the stranger’s sword her plains invest?

That her green fields be dyed,

Hope ye, with blood from the Barbarians’ veins?

Beguiled by error weak,

Ye see not, though to pierce so deep ye boast,

Who love or faith in venal bosoms seek:

When thronged your standards most,

Ye are encompassed most by hostile bands.

Oh, hideous deluge gathered in strange lands,

That rushing down amain

O’erwhelms our every native lovely plain!

Alas! if our own hands

Have thus our weal betrayed, who shall our cause sustain?

Well did kind Nature, guardian of our State,

Rear her rude Alpine heights,

A lofty rampart against German hate:

But blind ambition, seeking his own ill,

With ever restless will,

To the pure gales contagion foul invites;

Within the same strait fold

The gentle flocks and wolves relentless throng,

Where still meek innocence must suffer wrong:

And these—oh, shame avowed!—

Are of the lawless hordes no tie can hold;

Fame tells how Marius’s sword

Erewhile their bosoms gored,—

Nor has Time’s hand aught blurred the record proud!

When they who, thirsting, stooped to quaff the flood,

With the cool waters mixed, drank of a comrade’s blood!

Great Cæsar’s name I pass, who o’er our plains

Poured forth the ensanguined tide,

Drawn by our own good swords from out their veins;

But now—nor know I what ill stars preside—

Heaven holds this land in hate!

To you the thanks, whose hands control her helm!

You, whose rash feuds despoil

Of all the beauteous earth the fairest realm!

Are ye impelled by judgment, crime, or fate,

To oppress the desolate?

From broken fortunes and from humble toil

The hard-earned dole to wring,

While from afar ye bring

Dealers in blood, bartering their souls for hire?

In truth’s great cause I sing,

Nor hatred nor disdain my earnest lay inspire.

Nor mark ye yet, confirmed by proof on proof,

Bavaria’s perfidy,

Who strikes in mockery, keeping death aloof?

(Shame, worse than aught of loss, in honor’s eye!)

While ye, with honest rage, devoted pour

Your inmost bosom’s gore!—

Yet give one hour to thought,

And ye shall own how little he can hold

Another’s glory dear, who sets his own at naught.

O Latin blood of old!

Arise, and wrest from obloquy thy fame,

Nor bow before a name

Of hollow sound, whose power no laws enforce!

For if barbarians rude

Have higher minds subdued,

Ours! ours the crime!—Not such wise Nature’s course.

Ah! is not this the soil my foot first pressed?

And here, in cradled rest,

Was I not softly hushed? here fondly reared?

Ah! is not this my country? so endeared

By every filial tie!

In whose lap shrouded both my parents lie!

Oh! by this tender thought,

Your torpid bosoms to compassion wrought,

Look on the people’s grief!

Who, after God, of you expect relief;

And if ye but relent,

Virtue shall rouse her in embattled might,

Against blind fury bent,

Nor long shall doubtful hang the unequal fight;

For no—the ancient flame

Is not extinguished yet, that raised the Italian name!

Mark, sovereign lords! how Time, with pinion strong,

Swift hurries life along!

E’en now, behold! Death presses on the rear.

We sojourn here a day—the next, are gone!

The soul disrobed, alone,

Must shuddering seek the doubtful pass we fear.

Oh! at the dreaded bourne,

Abase the lofty brow of wrath and scorn,—

Storms adverse to the eternal calm on high!

And yet, whose cruelty

Has sought another’s harm, by fairer deed

Of heart, or hand, or intellect, aspire

To win the honest meed

Of just renown—the noble mind’s desire!

Thus sweet on earth the stay!

Thus to the spirit pure, unbarred is Heaven’s way!

My song! with courtesy, and numbers sooth,

Thy daring reasons grace;

For thou the mighty, in their pride of place,

Must woo to gentle ruth,

Whose haughty will long evil customs nurse,

Ever to truth averse!

Thee better fortunes wait,

Among the virtues few, the truly great!

Tell them—but who shall bid my terrors cease?

Peace! Peace! on thee I call! Return, O heaven-born Peace!