Bear with me

You’ll have to bear with me through another poem – well, those of you that understand either Italian (possibly archaic Italian, what do I know?) or Norwegian, anyway. Somewhat less appropriate to anything at all, but maybe that is just as well. Yeats was really just scary.

Anyway, I’ve just been adding some books to my database, and one of them was Dikt fra antikken til vår tid, an anthology designed primarily for students of comparative literature, I suspect, but then, I am one so that’s allright, isn’t it? Anyway, you know that lovely gift certificate I got to spend at Akademika last weekend? Well, I’ve been oogling this book for years, but it’s just a bit on the expensive side (well, it used to be when it was only available in hardback, the paperback is more affordable), so I thought this was as good an opportunity as any to get my hands on it.

The brilliant thing about it, besides it containing some very good poetry is that for all other languages than the three Scandinavian and English it has the poem both in the original and in translation. And this sonnet by Petrarch happens to be one of my favourites, the translation by Sigmund Skard seems to be very good (and I don’t even like SS’s own poetry much).

(First, the Italian:)

S’amor non �, che dunque � quel ch�io sento?
Ma s’egli � amor, per Dio, che cosa et quale?
Se bona, onde l’effecto aspro mortale?
Se ria, onde s� dolce ogni tormento?

S’a mia voglia ardo, onde ‘l pianto e lamento?
S’a mal mio grado, il lamentar che vale?
O viva morte, o dilectoso male,
come puoi tanto in me, s’io nol consento?

Et s’io ‘l consento, a gran torto mi doglio.
Fra s� contrari v�nti in frale barca
mi trovo in alto mar senza governo,

s� lieve di saver, d’error s� carca,
ch’i’ medesmo non so quel ch’io mi voglio,
e tremo a mezza state, ardendo il verno.

— Francesco Petrarca

(and the Norwegian – which, by the way, is “New Norwegian”, and not the language I actually write at all)

Er dette ikkje elsk, kva kan det vera?
Og er det elsk, å Gud, kva er det så?
Om godt, kvi er det daudebeiskt å få?
Om vondt, kvi er det endå søtt å bera?

Vil eg det sjølv, kva gagn kan tårer gjera?
Og vil eg ikkje, kvifor græt eg då?
å daudeliv! å frygd eg flyr ifrå!
Eg strir imot – kor kan du endå tæra?

Og vil eg sjølv, kva tener tårer til?
Slik stormar høgt mitt hav med skumkvit båre,
og styrelaus i skrale båten stend eg.

Så vesal er min visdom, dåre, dåre!
at ikkje sjølv eg veit kva sjølv eg vil,
eg frys i varmen, og i frosten brenn eg.

— Petrarca, transl. by Sigmund Skard

(First and last two lines in translation on this page.)