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Dante Alighieri: Sestina of the Lady Pietra degli Scrovigni

Translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


To the dim light and the large circle of shade 
I have clomb, and to the whitening of the hills, 
There where we see no color in the grass. 
Natheless my longing loses not its green, 
It has so taken root in the hard stone 
Which talks and hears as though it were a lady. 


Utterly frozen is this youthful lady, 
Even as the snow that lies within the shade; 
For she is no more moved than is the stone 
By the sweet season which makes warm the hills 
And alters them afresh from white to green 
Covering their sides again with flowers and grass. 


When on her hair she sets a crown of grass 
The thought has no more room for other lady, 
Because she weaves the yellow with the green 
So well that Love sits down there in the shade,– 
Love who has shut me in among low hills 
Faster than between walls of granite-stone. 


She is more bright than is a precious stone; 
The wound she gives may not be healed with grass: 
I therefore have fled far o’er plains and hills 
For refuge from so dangerous a lady; 
But from her sunshine nothing can give shade,– 
Not any hill, nor wall, nor summer-green. 


A while ago, I saw her dressed in green,– 
So fair, she might have wakened in a stone 
This love which I do feel even for her shade; 
And therefore, as one woos a graceful lady, 
I wooed her in a field that was all grass 
Girdled about with very lofty hills. 


Yet shall the streams turn back and climb the hills 
Before Love’s flame in this damp wood and green 
Burn, as it burns within a youthful lady, 
For my sake, who would sleep away in stone 
My life, or feed like beasts upon the grass, 
Only to see her garments cast a shade. 


How dark soe’er the hills throw out their shade, 
Under her summer green the beautiful lady 
Covers it, like a stone cover’d in grass. 

Public Domain

Posthumous portrait in tempera
by Sandro Botticelli, 1495

Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri, commonly known by his pen name Dante Alighieri or simply as Dante  (c. 1265 – 1321), was an Italian poet. His Divine Comedy is widely considered the most important poem of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language. In the Late Middle Ages, most poetry was written in Latin, making it accessible only to the most educated readers. In De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular), however, Dante defended the use of the vernacular in literature. He wrote most of his works, including the Divine Comedy, in the Tuscan dialect, setting a precedent that important later Italian writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio would follow.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882) was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator, and a member of the Rossetti family, including his sister, the poet Christina Rossetti. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement. Rossetti’s personal life was closely linked to his work, especially his relationships with his models and muses especially Elizabeth Siddal whom he married.

One comment on “Dante Alighieri: Sestina of the Lady Pietra degli Scrovigni

  1. Jolly Watson
    August 16, 2022

    Please reach out to Sophie at .


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