THE CONVIVIO, BOOK 2 BY DANTE ALIGHIERI Canzone: “Voi che ’ntendendo il terzo ciel movete”
by Dante Alighieri
translated by Richard Lansing
Canzone: “Voi che ’ntendendo il terzo ciel movete”
You whose intellect the third sphere moves,
Now listen to the speech within my heart,
For I cannot speak to others, so strange it seems.
The heaven that moves according to your power
Draws me, O noble creatures that you are,
Into the state in which I find myself.
And hence these words about the life I live
Should properly be told, it seems, to you:
And so I pray that you will listen to me.
I shall recount the strangeness in my heart,
How here within my sad soul weeps,
And how against her speaks a spirit that comes
Upon the rays descending from your star.
The life of my grieving heart was once
A tender thought that frequently would find
Its way into the presence of your Lord,
Where it would see a lady in glorious light
Of whom it would speak to me so sweetly
That my soul would say: “I wish to go there.”
Now one appears who puts it into flight,
Who lords it over me with might so great
That then my heart so shakes it shows outside.
This one makes me behold a lady,
And says: “Let him who would see bliss
Gaze into the eyes of this lady,
Provided he fears not the sighs of anguish.”
The humble thought that used to speak to me
Of an angel who is crowned in heaven
Encounters now a foe who slays it.
The soul cries out, for this still grieves her,
And so she says: “Alas, how he is fled,
The compassionate one who once consoled me.”
And of my eyes this anguished one remarks:
“Unhappy hour when such a lady looked on them:
Why would they not believe my word of her?
And I: `Now surely in her eyes must dwell
The one who slays the likes of me!’
But my perceiving this did not avail,
For still they gazed on him, whereby I’m slain.”
“You are not slain but only led astray,
Dear soul of ours who so laments,”
A gentle spirit of love replies to me,
“For this fair lady whose power you feel
Has changed your life so very much
That you are frightened, and become a coward!
See how compassionate she is, and humble,
How courteous and wise in her magnificence:
Resolve henceforth to call this one your lady.
Unless you err through self-deceit you’ll see
The beauty of such lofty miracles
That you will say: `Love, my true lord,
Behold your handmaid: Do as you please.'”
My song, I think they will be few indeed
Who’ll rightly understand your sense,
So difficult and complex is your speech.
So if by chance it comes to pass
That you should find yourself with some
Who do not grasp it well at all,
I pray you then, dear newborn song,
Take courage again and say to them:
“Consider at least how fair I am!”