Capitolo 8

Veronica Franco

Franco describes a set of mismatched lovers, including herself

I wish it were the case, as you say it is,
that I led my life free from Love, and frank,
not caught in his snare or pierced by his arrows;
and if in this affair I lack by far
the strength to resist the weapons of that god
who wearies heaven and earth and even hell,
my desire would still be that he nestled in my heart,
so that I could make him become
less resistant to what I most desire.
Not that I want to rule over him,

for I would be mad even to imagine it,
nor would I presume to rule such a great god;
but I would like him to grant me as a gift
that even if I must fall in love,
I may do so according to my own design.
For if my feelings were free in this affair,
I would despise the man I adore;
and with steady, mature desire,
I'd pursue the one I scorn.
And since I, too, must complain of Love,

anything more unfair than his wicked reign
would be impossible to imagine or find.
He leads souls astray from their own good,
and even as he pulls you back,
he sets you on the brink of your own ruin.
And if he turns your heart toward such distress,
believe me, through his doing I myself
certainly languish and sigh no less;
and if you swoon with love for me
(I know not, but believe it), I, too, suffer at heart

from a cruel snake's sharp bite and killing venom.
So however much you suffer on my account,
you see fully paid back, in return,
by my flesh and my afflicted blood.
And if my pain hurts and does not delight you,
nor do I want yours, and what I do against you
I do driven by love for another;
and if I lie abject and sick unto death,
how can I help you in your pain
when I shriek within and am outwardly silent?

If your grief leads you to lament to me,
in my travail, greater yet, my life
turns to stone and hardens into unfeeling rock:
such grief penetrates the heart far more deeply,
so that it freezes the tears within the breast,
and changes man, like Niobe, into stone.
Your suffering could be called delight
since you ease it by speaking of it to me,
unlike mine, which my heart shuts up in its core.
I still answer you if you speak to me;

but the wind has carried my imploring prayers
off with it every moment, without an answer,
whenever I have had sufficient daring
to appeal, through my voice or in ink,
for mercy in return for my dire pain.
And so I must lower my tearful eyes
and keep them low for a long time to come,
unless death cuts short the path of my woe.
Of my lover, I say nothing; for my agony
is sweet nourishment to him, so that as he feeds on it,

he is ever less satisfied by its own starvation.
And even from his pride a strange desire
is born in me to satisfy all his wishes,
and it never allows me to rest;
but Love loosens and frees him from my embrace,
and perhaps another woman does to him
what he does to me, and as he gives, he receives.
So as much as my desire resists yours,
in the same way, in return for my desire,
I receive agony, piercing and sharp.

Perhaps you, too, disdain another woman
conquered by love for you, and your mind
roams far from ever wanting to please her;
and if you are heedless and ungrateful to her,
Love, in his fair judgment, decrees
that another woman should ravage and torment you.
Perhaps Love even laughs at these shared tears
and, to make the world weep even more,
divides and sunders yet another's desire;
and, while he makes merry over this,

the wide sea of all our tears
darkens and deepens further still:
for if man could love to his heart's content,
without confronting contrary desires,
the pleasure of love would have no equal.
And if destiny has laid down the law
that in supreme delight, earthly good
may not attain the bliss of heaven,
my woe is all the greater as my habit is
to fall in love, and to feel, through loving,

this beloved mismatch in love.
However much I reflect on myself,
I see that fortune leads me wherever
life follows an always troubled path;
and if I were able to take reason as my guide,
which now, defeated by emotion,
is subjected to the reign of Love,
the flame for the other man would burn out
in my heart, and my soul would be prompt
to flare up with fire for you instead.

And if I lack the right to change this scheme
of things, if he whom heaven once made,
for good or ill, does not undo or improve it,
I may hope that he who holds me tied
in an unworthy bond gives my freedom back,
so I may give myself to you, as is more fit;
but, dear sir, you must no longer expect
that I should devote more than a wish
to this, and that with no small annoyance.
Certainly my joy would be complete

if I could change into love for you
what in that man teases me with delight.
I would gladly give my heart to you,
and by giving it, believe I earned it back
in the merit of your high distinction:
so I should take my heart from his cruel hands,
and safely set it, by fortune's favor,
in a place of comfort and good health.
I know very well how to value your virtue,
and of your rare and excellent works

many examples have come to my notice.
Your valor is dearly evident to me,
and if I cannot reward it rightly,
Love keeps me from availing myself of so much good.
I consider how I might be able to do so,
and if where desire falls short of power,
good will still deserves a return,
certainly your duty is to make peace with me:
at a more propitious time, perhaps,
I will show you an outcome that turns all this to good.

Meanwhile, let the certainty of my care
be a comfort to you and assuage your grief
and make you judge me not unkind, 'til one day I find myself free again.

[ll. 1-133; pp. 99 - 107]

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Franco, Veronica Poems and Selected Letters.
2010 Selected Poetry
The Poets Garret
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