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Elusive Quarry

After Petrarch — Perch’ al viso d’Amor portava insegna

The wanderer was fair, and bore Love’s emblem in her face.
She moved my foolish heart. No other of her sisterhood
in beauty’s roll of honour merited a higher place.

I watched her as she strayed across the green grass; and gave chase —
but heard a voice: ‘Don’t waste your steps by hunting in this wood.’
Distant, but loud, it called: ‘She you pursue is out of reach.’

I drew myself into the shadow of a mighty beech
and thought. I looked around. I saw the dangers in my way.
So I turned back and left her. It was not yet quite midday.

Audio file

Listen to this translation — read by Peter Hetherington

Perch’ al viso d’Amor portava insegna — Petrarch

Perch’ al viso d’Amor portava insegna,

mosse una pellegrina il mio cor vano,

ch’ ogni altra mi parea d’onor men degna;

et lei seguendo su per l’erbe verdi,
udí’ dir alta voce di lontano:

‘Ahi, quanti passi per la selva perdi!’

Allor mi strinsi a l’ombra d’un bel faggio

tutto pensoso, et rimirando intorno
vidi assai periglioso il mio viaggio;

et tornai indietro quasi a mezzo ’l giorno.