Giacomo da Lentini is a Sicilian who is generally considered the creator of the sonnet. This translation is by Leo Zoutewelle.


I’ve seen it rain on sunny days
And seen the darkness flash with light
And even lightning turn to haze,
Yes, frozen snow turn warm and bright

And sweet things taste of bitterness
And what is bitter taste most sweet
And enemies their love confess
And good, close friends no longer meet.

Yet stranger things I’ve seen of love
Who healed my wounds by wounding me.
The fire in me he quenched before;
The life he gave was the end thereof,
The fire that slew eluded me.
Once saved from love, love now burns more.


In the original Sicilian















Leo Zoutewelle was born in 1935 in The Netherlands and was raised there until at age twenty he emigrated to the United States. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Davidson College, in North Carolina, and a Masters in Business Administration from the Darden School in the University of Virginia. In 1977, he went into business for himself in the field of land surveying, which he maintained until 2012, when he retired. Since then, he has written an autobiography and two novels (unpublished).

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7 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    The Sicilian should be read by someone with a rich, Sicilian accent.
    The music of the reading would be incomparable.

    Very beautiful, nonetheless.

  2. C.B. Anderson

    Yes, I agree with Joe T. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the translation, but the end result was a work of great delicacy and pointed observations about the intricacy and apparent contradictions that confront each one of us in the course of our lives.

    • Leo Zoutewelle

      Joe and CB,
      Thank you both very much for your comments.
      I appreciate that.

      • John Heigl

        Commenced translating the Lentini numero uno that begins, “Love’s a desire that springs from the heart…” back in 1968 at Columbia then school went down in the protests: your nice translation brings back all the freshness from 800 years ago, thanks so much, John — reminds one a bit of that pop song “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain ….”

      • Cathy Dreyer

        I love your translation and it’s fascinating to see the original Sicilian. Is there a book of Da Lentini’s sonnets in the Sicilian dialect?

        I notice you are a mathematician. Do you have a view on Da Lentini’s choice of the numbers 11 and 14? I am wondering if he was playing with a jokey solution to squaring the circle.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    Da Lentini’s poems were originally composed in Sicilian, but when they were re-copied by mainland scribes in Italy they were put into standard Tuscan, and these Tuscan versions are the only ones we have now. This was true whenever vernacular languages were written down in the medieval period — the scribe would put the text into whatever dialect of the language he used.


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