Petrarch — Son animali al mondo de sì altera

Some animals enjoy such special powers of sight
that they can look straight at the sun, however bright,
and take no harm; while others shun its glare, and wait
in hiding until evening’s in the sky.

Still others are possessed to launch themselves in flight
at light that emanates from fire, for sheer delight.
Fire’s other property — to burn — they sense too late.
Alas, in this last company am I.

For want of strength I cannot face that lady’s light,
nor shelter in dark places, or the hours of night.
Fate forces me to gaze on her when she appears,
through eyes already injured and half-blind with tears,
knowing too well my true desire, my shame:
to go beyond her light, into her flame.

Listen to this translation — read by Peter Hetherington

Son animali al mondo de sì altera — Petrarch

Son animali al mondo de sì altera
vista che ’ncontra ’l sol pur si difende;

altri, però che ’l gran lume gli offende,

non escon fuor se non verso la sera;

et altri, col desio folle che spera
gioir forse nel foco, perché splende,

provan l’altra vertù, quella che ’ncende;

lasso, e ’l mio loco è ’n questa ultima schera.

Ch’ i’ non son forte ad aspettar la luce

di questa donna, et non so fare schermi
di luoghi tenebrosi o d’ore tarde;

però con gli occhi lagrimosi e ’nfermi

mio destino a vederla mi conduce,

et so ben ch’ i’ vo dietro a quel che m’arde.


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