Le Barroux vineyards with Mont Ventoux‘Meeting Petrarch’ by Margaret Coats The Society June 15, 2021 Beauty, Culture, Poetry, Translation 10 Comments . Francesco, is it you? Be confident. Sorgue vineyard pathways never were too dusty __For you—plump face and figure lusty. Come nearer; focus my astonishment. The monks and nuns sleep early after Compline. __Fawn twilight gilds the summer evening; __Its nectared air fans out old grieving, And here I am, a poet’s shadow primed for parley, Away from home to do a lady homage __And adumbrate for her perceiving __The Love involved in interweaving Our isolated aspirations joined bizarrely. Charmed concourse where the abbey vines grow gnarly Concluded with my gallant mentor’s muted __Request at times to be saluted By sweet indulgences in compliment. . Sorgue: stream flowing where Petrarch’s beloved Laura lived Compline (KAHM-plin): last hour of the monastic day, followed by grand silence indulgences: merits gained for the deceased by praying for them Poet’s note: This meeting took place during a solitary walk through vineyards belonging to Benedictine abbeys at Le Barroux in Provence. The poem is a ballata, or literary dance lyric, written in the form of one by Petrarch. The first line of a ballata can be repeated after each section of the poem, which requires it to be a completed thought, although repetitions rarely appear in printing. The rhyme link between the middle section and the last is a typical feature of the form. Below is the model poem with my translation of it. . At times, I have few struggles to endure From her angelic figure and sweet smile. __Her air is softer for a while; Her face and playful eyes look less obscure. What happened to my enervating sighs __Once born of disappointed gloom, __Breathed forth ignobly to predoom My life to agitated anguish and despair? Lo, now my quiet heart identifies __Love furnishing a cheerful room __Where she may grant what I presume To ask as I turn toward her in beseeching prayer. But war remains unfinished: I must bear A heart deprived of true tranquility. __Desire burns up my dignity As fast as greater hope makes me secure. . Italian original Canzoniere del Petrarca 149 Di tempo in tempo mi si fa men dura l’angelica figura e ’l dolce riso, et l’aria del bel viso e de gli occhi leggiadri meno oscura. Che fanno meco omai questi sospiri che nascean di dolore et mostravan di fore la mia angosciosa et desperata vita? S’ aven che ’l volto in quella parte giri per acquetare il core, parmi vedere Amore mantener mia ragione et darmi aita. Né però trovo ancor guerra finita né tranquillo ogni stato del cor mio, ché più m’arde desio quanto più la speranza m’assicura. . . Margaret Coats lives in California. She holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University. She has retired from a career of teaching literature, languages, and writing that included considerable work in homeschooling for her own family and others. NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to email@example.com. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 10 Responses paul buchheit June 15, 2021 Beautiful sentiments and translation, Margaret. Makes me feel like I’m walking in the past. Reply Margaret Coats June 15, 2021 Thank you, Paul. I had that feeling myself. Walking on monastery property in perfect quiet because the monks are asleep to prepare for hours of chanting psalms in the middle of the night? That place is not easy to find in the present! Reply BRIAN YAPKO June 15, 2021 Margaret, this is really wonderful. First off, the poem on its own terms is a joy to read. I love the Browning-like characterization of the servant and I love your use of language — especially the alliteration in the phrase “poet’s shadow primes for parley.” I also like the unexpected rhymes of “parley” and “bizarrely” which made me smile. And I have now increased my vocabulary by learning the words “Compline” and “adumbrate.” But I also really appreciate reading your source inspiration and following your creative process. That made the experience much more satisfying. I’ve learned something valuable about a poet and a form that I know very little about. Thank you for this beautiful offering! Reply Margaret Coats June 15, 2021 The creative process was holding on to a memorable but wordless evening for twenty years, then realizing just recently that the great laureate and I could have a real conversation if his part was the form. I knew generally what he wanted to say; apparitions from beyond, if they come from a good place, want our prayers. Now I myself am surprised at the subtleties of discourse among these three poems. The translation was done last, feeling that I needed to show SCP what I meant by a ballata. I’m glad you enjoy everything in this little collection. Reply Joseph S. Salemi June 15, 2021 The first poem is exquisite, but the rendering of Petrarch is a dazzling tour de force that leaves me in awe. Translating a complex rhymed poem into English while maintaining both the rhyme scheme and the essential meaning…wow! Reply Julian D. Woodruff June 15, 2021 Beautiful, Margaret. The rhyme with “gnarly” is just as inspired as parley bizarrely. “Fawn twilight gilds … old grieving” is just about matchless. Congratulations on the translation, too. This Petrarch text evidently had to wait 4 centuries before any musician of note set it (Fr. Reichardt). Reply Margaret Coats June 15, 2021 Many thanks, Joseph. While the ballata seemed simple, Petrarch’s word artistry did not allow a line-for-line translation, and your judgment that I rendered the essence of the poem as I re-positioned concepts is most welcome. The last two lines did need to be in the order Petrarch gave them, and again you help me feel successful at conveying their unresolved tension. Reply Margaret Coats June 15, 2021 Julian, I found that “gnarly,” referring to grape vines, has a strong and beautiful connotation quite unlike “gnarled,” as used to describe hands. Gnarly vines undulate smoothly, offering maximum opportunity for sprouts to form into grape clusters, and of course producing more wine. Those two lines you call matchless are the words I give to Petrarch to describe the moment, and I’m delighted you find them worthy of him. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant June 15, 2021 Margaret, you never fail to intrigue and inspire me with your poetry and the beautiful forms that shape it – the ballata is no exception. ‘Walking with Petrarch’ is indeed exquisite – to echo that beautiful word chosen by Joe S. I especially like the atmospheric; “Fawn twilight gilds the summer evening”. I had never thought of twilight as ‘fawn’, but I can see it now, and it’s gorgeous. I also love ‘nectared air’. The sound read aloud is a melodic delight, but it also complements the ‘fawn twilight’ and immerses my senses in a glorious, honeyed glow. As for the translation – I am awestruck by the perfect meter and rhyme. As for the meaning, I’m relying on you alone for that, and thank you for the opportunity to read this in English – beautiful, poetic English that lifts me to another realm. Thank you very much for the literary and sensory journey. Reply Margaret Coats June 16, 2021 Even the dust was golden, Susan. Thanks for letting me know I conveyed the colour-feeling of that evening. I was alone, but I felt someone was following me at a great distance. Several times I turned around, but saw only unpaved, uneven road such as you see in the photo. Once there was a tiny swirl of dust. Now that I have finally composed this poem for the 20th anniversary of the occasion, there is a figure at that place in my memory of the scene. So I wasn’t walking with Petrarch, but the ballata form creates a dance of sorts. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.