Petrarch: Sonnet 140

The following literal prose translation of Petrarch's "Sonnet 140,"  the poem translated by both Wyatt and Surrey, is taken from p. 9 of The English Sonnet by Patrick Cruttwell (Longmans, Green & Co., 1996).

Love, who lives and reigns in my thought and keeps his principal seat in my heart, comes like an arned warrior into my forehead, there places himself and there sets up his banner. She who teaches me to love and to suffer and who wishes that reason, modesty and reverence should restrain my great desire and burning hope, thrusts aside and disdains our ardour. Wherefore Love in terror flies to my heart, abandoning all his enterprise, and laments and trembles; there he hides himself and no more appears without. What can I do, when my lord is afraid, except stay with him until the last hour? For he makes a fine end who dies loving well.

In his interesting discussion of the sonnet, Cruttwell points out that although Surrey's translation is the more "faithful" one, Wyatt has created the finer English poem. He attributes some of the challenge of translation to the "full-bodied" sound of the abstract words in Italian as opposed to English and also to different values of the aesthetic Italian and the pragmatic English literary cultures.

By special request: Petrarch's Sonnet in Italian (Rima 140)

Amor, che nel penser mio vive et regna
e 'l suo seggio maggior nel mio cor tene,
talor armato ne la fronte vene,
ivi si loca, et ivi pon sua insegna

Quella ch'amare et sofferir ne 'nsegna
e vol che 'l gran desio, l'accesa spene,
ragion, vergogna et reverenza affrene,
di nostro ardir fra se stessa si sdegna.

Onde Amor paventoso fugge al core,
lasciando ogni sua impressa, et piange, et trema;
ivi s'asconde, et non appar piu fore.

Che poss'io far, temendo il mio signore,
se non star seco infin a l'ora extrema?
Che bel fin fa chi ben amando more.

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