Victorian Translation: Dante Sestina

The Victorians loved progress overmuch, and many of their poems are as obsolete as Philip Larkin’s work in teh 1960s. The cycle of progress ended not with Oliver Wilde and the Arts and Crafts movement, but in the first war: the cycle of the long war merged into the cycle of cultural revolution while I was still in primary school.

That is now ending.

So, instead of a confident Victorian Poem, an translation of a master of renaissance poetry by one of the more antimodern poets of the Victorian era, Rosetti.

Note the use of clomb and nathelass. Rosetti may have disliked the victorians, but exploration of the language was in the spirit of the age, and he was as infected as any other English Artist. That late Victorian/Early Modern, Joyce, destroyed this with the last chapter of the Odyssey.

Sestina of the Lady Pietra degli Scrovigni

To the dim light and the large circle of shade
I have clomb, and to the whitening of the hills,
There where we see no color in the grass.
Natheless my longing loses not its green,
It has so taken root in the hard stone
Which talks and hears as though it were a lady.

Utterly frozen is this youthful lady,
Even as the snow that lies within the shade;
For she is no more moved than is the stone
By the sweet season which makes warm the hills
And alters them afresh from white to green
Covering their sides again with flowers and grass.

When on her hair she sets a crown of grass
The thought has no more room for other lady,
Because she weaves the yellow with the green
So well that Love sits down there in the shade,–
Love who has shut me in among low hills
Faster than between walls of granite-stone.

She is more bright than is a precious stone;
The wound she gives may not be healed with grass:
I therefore have fled far o’er plains and hills
For refuge from so dangerous a lady;
But from her sunshine nothing can give shade,–
Not any hill, nor wall, nor summer-green.

A while ago, I saw her dressed in green,–
So fair, she might have wakened in a stone
This love which I do feel even for her shade;
And therefore, as one woos a graceful lady,
I wooed her in a field that was all grass
Girdled about with very lofty hills.

Yet shall the streams turn back and climb the hills
Before Love’s flame in this damp wood and green
Burn, as it burns within a youthful lady,
For my sake, who would sleep away in stone
My life, or feed like beasts upon the grass,
Only to see her garments cast a shade.

How dark soe’er the hills throw out their shade,
Under her summer green the beautiful lady
Covers it, like a stone cover’d in grass.