Capitolo 1

Veronica Franco


(From the Magnifico Marco Venier to Veronica Franco.)

If I love you as much as my own life,
cruel lady, why do you offer no relief
for my suffering in such great love?
And if I ask in vain for grace and pity,
why do not you at least end with death
this pain I endure for love of you?
I know you are not right to reward
my faithfulness in this way; but a wrong
that rights a greater wrong is well received;
my suffering is more bitter than any death,

and to die by your hand in this condition
would be a boon I long for and cherished.
But how ever can it be, in the tenderest part can enclose a heart so hard and pitiless?
How can it be that such a gay appearance
conceals desires and thoughts so cruel
that they disdain my humble devotion?
To use the great beauty given you by heaven
for the death and grief of a man who loves you-

what deed worse than this could you commit? Let your natural desire be freed from all this
and let compassion fitting to your beauty
make its way into your mind instead.
So bright and resplendent inside and out
you will be the true ornament of every age,
not only of this present century.
Before the gold of your lovely hair turns to silver
you must take good care of what is lost
in a single moment, once left in the hands of time;

and though you're now in a fresh and flowering age,
nothing flies past so swiftly as the years,
which outstrip even though;
and while here on Earth no good thing lasts,
beauty is born and vanishes quick as a flash,
like the rose that blooms and withers all at once.
But whoever harbours pity in her breast
by virtue of her fame brings back to life
her golden locks and her kind serene face.
So, to become eternal and divine on Earth,

be hostile and averse to cruelty,
a friend to pity for the man who loves you.
Oh and if you were to see my fiery longing
to serve only you at every hour of the day
and my thought, which always seeks and longs for you,
if you were to see my heart deep in my breast,
I know that you could compare no other lover
to me for the love he feels towards you.
Bur behold my heart revealed in my pale
and mournful look, and my solitary wandering,

day and night, with weary foot and constant heart;
and taking note of my crushing pain,
and how at every moment it must overflow,
bound to an infinite throng of woes,
turn your eyes towards me pitifully,
to see how, from near and far away,
cruel Love constantly aims his bow at me;
reach out to me your fair white hand
to renew his blows, to let him pierce my breast
more deeply and heal it at the same time.

Oh, beauty far surpassing any other,
through which the soil, delighted to humble itself,
becomes one with paradise here on Earth!
Love, through those lovely eyes, shoots me
so sweetly that the harm he's aimed at me alone
delights and rejoices me more and more.
Those eyes indeed make the bright sun envious,
and even Phoebus gazes in delight
at the beauties which so abound in you;
for these, longing Apollo burns and sighs,

and through the power of such merry eyes
he benignly breathes his knowledge into you,
and, as he infuses it lavishly into you,
you turn your dear voice to sweet song,
which matches the lovely thoughts in your mind.
Take pen and paper in hand, then,
and write pleasant and graceful rhymes,
which strip the glory from the greatest poets.
Oh, lovely hand, which with lovely art
expresses such winning conceits, and happily

imprints its shape upon my heart!
Following the footsteps of ancient valor,
it moves along, so pure and gentle, awakening
virtue where it sleeps most deeply;
not only does it revive the splendid style
of the celebrated poetry of the past,
which so far has had no like or equal;
but to suffering minds, that hand
is a great help in the suffering of love,
for here it finds its shelter and relief.

Hand of living snow, white and pure,
which sweetly inflames and consumes my heart,
through a supernatural miracle of love,
and you, heavenly and gracious eyes,
which to me are ardor and coolness all in one,
and make other glances seem mere smoke and shadow,
why do you refuse me your counsel?
and why, instead, in pitiful fashion
do you not come, alas, to my rescue?
Not that I ask you to untie the knots

that your lovely hand wove around my heart,
nor to loosen my bonds in any place;
I do not ask that your lovely, gentle glance
should heal in my breast the wound it dealt me
through the sly, alluring art of love;
by those hands and by those very arms
I long to be embraced, in courtesy,
and to have them pull my ties tighter still.
I long for that kind and gracious sight
to tend to my delight, and not to withhold

your lovely face and mouth from me.
Oh, what a happy and blessed paradise
never to be parted from enjoying,
lady, your unparalleled charms;
lady of true and unique beauty,
and improved by fine manners and skill,
with mature wisdom in your early youth!
Oh, how sweet to gaze upon those naked limbs,
which now are so unfairly hard and cruel,
and sweeter still to lie languid in your lap! .

I would take in my hands the burnished gold
of your tresses, pulling that fine treasure
gently, in revenge for your offense.
When you lie stretched out upon the pillows,
how sweet to fall upon you! and in that way
to strip you of any retreat or defense!
The man who finds you not opposed to pity
sees you as Venus for your charms in bed
and the many delights discovered in you,
just as when you compose learned verses,

the art and intellect of the nine Castilians,
sisters to you, are revealed to one's eyes.
And so among beauties you are famous for your learning,
and among learned women you are known for your beauty,
and in both you excel one group and the other;
and while each of these qualities wins you admiration,
the honour for both would be yours altogether,
if only your harshness did not spoil your beauty.
But if knowledge in you is so nobly fruitful,
why is it that beauty, also a treasure,
comes to ruin through your hard heart?

Circulate your work, go with it everywhere,
and as your virtuosity gains from doing so,
let not your beauty be the source of my tears;
may so much sorrow in so much love move you,
so that, to relieve my heart-heavy grief,
you join me in a contest worthy of praise.
If your muse vanquishes time
through such glory-winning tricks,
may your beauty not do itself unending harm.
It is right that Phoebus should be satisfied

by your intellect; but let Venus
be no less pleased by your beauty.
You must put to good use all the gifts
that she made you, as you do
with the gifts granted you by Apollo;
you'll make your name immortal through Venus's gifts
no less than you will do with your ink;
and you'll slow down time and weaken its force.
Through her mouth I assure you of this:
do not desert Cypris to follow after Delios,

or attempt to defend yourself against her.
For Phoebus himself bows down to obey her,
and he cannot do otherwise, though in the end
he takes great pleasure in service to her.
So you, as well, must do the same,
imitating the example set by this god,
who inspires you with his ideas and thoughts.
Adorn your beauty with a pitying heart;
so that it is properly accompanied by virtue,
far from every cruel, fierce desire;

in you let these two join hands with pity
and make you feel as sorry as you should
for a man who weeps for your love every moment.
And I am that man, who comes humbly to you,
hoping to placate with caressing entreaties
your rigor together with your disdain;
do not, in God's name, refuse me your mercy,
fair, gentle lady, but in such great war
extend your kindly help to me.
In this way you will be without equal on earth.


[ll. 1-181; pp. 51]




If you have any suggestions or questions regarding these poems please email me


Franco, Veronica Poems and Selected Letters.
2010 Selected Poetry
The Poets Garret
Tir Na nOg Poetry Community