You who hear the sound, in scattered rhymes,
of those sighs on which I fed my heart,
in my first vagrant youthfulness,
when I was partly other than I am,
I hope to find pity, and forgiveness,
for all the modes in which I talk and weep,
between vain hope and vain sadness,
in those who understand love through its trials.
Yet I see clearly now I have become
an old tale amongst all these people, so that
it often makes me ashamed of myself;
and shame is the fruit of my vanities,
and remorse, and the clearest knowledge
of how the world’s delight is a brief dream.
Since you and I have seen how our hope
has, so many times, turned to disappointment,
raise your heart to a happier state,
towards that great good that never cheats us.
This earthly life’s like a meadow, where
a snake hides among the grass and flowers:
and if anything is pleasing to the eye,
it leaves the spirit more entangled.
So you, who’ve always sought a mind
at peace, before the final day,
follow the few, and not the common crowd.
Though you could well say to me: ‘Brother
you show the way to others, from which
you’ve often strayed, and now more than ever.’
Greed and sleep and slothful beds
have banished every virtue from the world,
so that, overcome by habit,
our nature has almost lost its way.
And all the benign lights of heaven,
that inform human life, are so spent,
that he who wishes to bring down a stream
from Helicon is pointed out as a wonder.
Such desire for laurel, and for myrtle?
‘Poor and naked goes philosophy’,
say the crowd intent on base profit.
You’ll have poor company on that other road:
So much the more I beg you, gentle spirit,
not to turn from your great undertaking.
no tear yet bathed my breast nor broke my sleep,
and what was not in me seemed to me a miracle in others.
Alas, what am I?
what was I?