• Translation

Dante's Sestina Stone Rhyme: Al Poco Giorno e al gran cerchio d'ombra

Dante Alighieri death mask in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

To the short day and great arc of shadow

I've come, alas, and to the paling hills

When all the colors have vanished from the grass

Where yet, my longing loses not its green

As it becomes so barbed in stone,

Which speaks and hears as though it were a woman.

In such a fashion is this fair woman

Frozen like snow beneath the shadow;

She is not moved much like a stone

By the sweet season that warms the hills

And makes them turn from white to green

Because it covers them with flowers and grass.

When she wears her garland made of grass

She overshadows every other woman

For she weaves with beauty yellow and green

Such that Love comes to lie in her shadow,

Which has locked me inside those little hills

With greater force than any calcined stone.

Her beauty has more worth than precious stone

Her blows one cannot treat with any grass;

For I have fled on every plane and every hill

In order to escape such a woman;

But from her light there is no shadow

Either by wall, or knoll or fronds of green.

I have already seen her dressed in green,

So clad that she would have instilled in stone

The love which I now bear her shadow:

Thus have I beckoned her on fields of green,

She seemed as much in love as any woman

Who’s all around enclosed by climbing hills.

But well will each river flow back to its hills

Before this wood so soft and green

Becomes inflamed as does this woman

Who burns my soul. For I’d gladly sleep on stone

As long as it need be, and go on grazing grass

For just a chance to see her cast a shadow.

Although the hills now cast a darker shadow,

Beneath the sweet green that fair woman

Makes each one vanish as grass hides stone.

Translation © David B. Gosselin