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Petrarch — Movesi il vecchierel canuto et bianco

Just as a poor old man, with hair as white as snow,
leaving the happy home where he has spent his life,
embracing his dear children and beloved wife
(the family distraught to see the father go),

will drag his ancient limbs — a pilgrim’s heavy load —
through days he knows full well will be the last he’ll see,
when strength of will alone renews his energy,
he broken by the years and weary of the road,

and come to Rome, to seek the object of his faith —
Christ’s image on a handkerchief — and gaze upon this wraith,
pale prelude to a fuller vision in a higher place;

so I, alas, as chance permits, will sometimes try
by scanning other women, lady, to descry
some likeness in them of your true and longed-for face.

Audio file

Listen to this translation — read by Peter Hetherington

Movesi il vecchierel canuto et bianco — Petrarch

Movesi il vecchierel canuto et bianco
del dolce loco ov’ à sua età fornita
et da la famigliuola sbigottita
che vede il caro padre venir manco;

indi traendo poi l’antico fianco
per l’estreme giornate di sua vita,

quanto più po col buon voler s’aita,

rotto dagli anni, et dal camino stanco;

et viene a Roma, seguendo ’l desio,

per mirar la sembianza di colui
ch’ ancor lassù nel ciel vedere spera;

così, lasso, talor vo cercand’ io,

donna, quanto è possibile in altrui

la disiata vostra forma vera.