Skip to main content

Petrarch — Oimè il bel viso, oimè il soave sguardo

Ah, but her face was lovely; gentle was her glance.
She bore herself with grace, and yet with pride.
She humbled men puffed up with arrogance
and heartened those in whom all hope had died.

Alas for that sweet smile! It shot the dart
which makes me long for death: my kindest fate.
Her regal soul deserved to play a part
in empires past; but she was born too late.

I burn for you; I breathe in you; I’m yours alone.
And have I lost for ever your sweet company?
Alas, this is the worst calamity I’ve known.

I left you; with desire and hope you filled my mind,
keeping the thought of greater joys alive in me.
Alas for words of parting, scattered on the wind!

Audio file

Listen to this translation — read by Peter Hetherington

Oimè il bel viso, oimè il soave sguardo — Petrarch

Oimè il bel viso, oimè il soave sguardo,
oimè il leggiadro portamento altero!

Oimè il parlar ch’ ogni aspro ingegno et fero

facevi humile, ed ogni huom vil, gagliardo!

Et oimè il dolce riso, onde uscío ’l dardo

di che morte, altro bene omai non spero!

Alma real dignissima d’impero
se non fossi fra noi scesa sì tardo:

per voi conven ch’ io arda, e ’n voi respiro,
ch’ i’ pur fui vostro; et se di voi son privo
via men d’ogni sventura altra mi dole;

di speranza m’empieste et di desire
quand’ io parti’ dal sommo piacer vivo,

ma ’l vento ne portava le parole.