Love’s Tinder In My Breast

Francesco Petrarch (1304 – 1374)


Sonnet 90

by Petrarch
translated by Morris Bishop

She used to let her golden hair fly free.
For the wind to toy and tangle and molest;
Her eyes were brighter than the radiant west.
(Seldom they shine so now.) I used to see
Pity look out of those deep eyes on me.
(“It was false pity,” you would now protest.)
I had love’s tinder heaped within my breast;
What wonder that the flame burnt furiously?

She did not walk in any mortal way,
But with angelic progress; when she spoke,
Unearthly voices sang in unison.

She seemed divine among the dreary folk
Of earth. You say she is not so today?
Well, though the bow’s unbent, the wound bleeds on.

Sonnet 90

by Petrarch
Translated by Anthony Mortimer

Upon the breeze she spread her golden hair
that in a thousand gentle knots was turned,
and the sweet light beyond all measure burned
in eyes where now that radiance is rare;
and in her face there seemed to come an air
of pity, true or false, that I discerned:
I had love’s tinder in my breast unburned,
was it a wonder if it kindled there?

She moved not like a mortal, but as though
she bore an angel’s form, her words had then
a sound that simple human voices lack;
a heavenly spirit, a living sun
was what I saw; now, if it is not so,
the wound’s not healed because the bow grows slack.