Canzone: His Portrait of his Lady, Angiola of Verona

I LOOK at the crisp golden-threaded hair
Whereof, to thrall my heart, Love twists a net,
Using at times a string of pearls for bait,
And sometimes with a single rose therein.
I look into her eyes which unaware
Through mine own eyes to my heart penetrate;
Their splendour, that is excellently great,
To the sun's radiance seeming near akin,
Yet from herself a sweeter light to win.
So that I, gazing on that lovely one,
Discourse in this wise with my secret thought: —
" Woe's me! why am I not,
Even as my wish, alone with her alone, —
That hair of hers, so heavily uplaid,
To shed down braid by braid,
And make myself two mirrors of her eyes
Within whose light all other glory dies?"

I look at the amorous beautiful mouth,
The spacious forehead which her locks enclose,
The small white teeth, the straight and shapely nose,
And the clear brows of a sweet pencilling.
And then the thought within me gains full growth,
Saying, " Be careful that thy glance now goes
Between her lips, red as an open rose,
Quite full of every dear and precious thing;
And listen to her gracious answering,
Born of the gentle mind that in her dwells,
Which from all things can glean the nobler half.
Look thou when she doth laugh
How much her laugh is sweeter than aught else."
Thus evermore my spirit makes avow
Touching her mouth; till now
I would give anything that I possess,
Only to hear her mouth say frankly, " Yes."

I look at her white easy neck, so well
From shoulders and from bosom lifted out;
And at her round cleft chin, which beyond doubt
No fancy in the world could have design'd.
And then, with longing grown more voluble,
" Were it not pleasant now," pursues my thought,
" To have that neck within thy two arms caught
And kiss it till the mark were left behind?"
Then, urgently: " The eyelids of thy mind
Open thou: if such loveliness be given
To sight here, — what of that which she doth hide?
Only the wondrous ride
Of sun and planets through the visible heaven
Tells us that there beyond is Paradise.
Thus, if thou fix thine eyes,
Of a truth certainly thou must infer
That every earthly joy abides in her."

I look at the large arms, so lithe and round, —
At the hands, which are white and rosy too, —
At the long fingers, clasped and woven through,
Bright with the ring which one of them doth wear.
Then my thought whispers: " Were thy body wound
Within those arms, as loving women's do,
In all thy veins were born a life made new
Which thou couldst find no language to declare.
Behold if any picture can compare
With her just limbs, each fit in shape and size,
Or match her angel's colour like a pearl.
She is a gentle girl
To see; yet when it needs, her scorn can rise
Meek, bashful, and in all things temperate,
Her virtue holds its state;
In whose least act there is that gift express'd
Which of all reverence make her worthiest."

Soft as a peacock steps she, or as a stork
Straight on herself, taller and statelier:
'Tis a good sight how every limb doth stir
For ever in a womanly sweet way.
" Open thy soul to see God's perfect work,"
(My thought begins afresh,) " and look at her
When with some lady-friend exceeding fair
She bends and mingles arms and locks in play.
Even as all lesser lights vanish away,
When the sun moves, before his dazzling face,
So is this lady brighter than all these.
How should she fail to please, —
Love's self being no more than her loveliness?
In all her ways some beauty springs to view;
All that she loves to do
Tends alway to her honour's single scope;
And only from good deeds she draws her hope."

Song, thou canst surely say, without pretence,
That since the first fair woman ever made,
Not one can have display'd
More power upon all hearts than this one doth;
Because in her are both
Loveliness and the soul's true excellence: —
And yet (woe's me!) is pity absent thence?
Author of original: 
Fazio degli Uberti
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