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  • Translation

A ciascun’alma presa, e gentil core by Dante Alighieri

To every gentle heart true Love may move,

And unto whom my words must now be brought

For wise interpretation’s tender thought,

I greet you in our Lord’s name, which is Love.

Through night’s last watch, as winking stars, above,

Kept their high vigil over men, distraught,

Love came to me, with such dark terrors fraught

As mortals may not casually speak of.

Love seemed a being of pure Joy and held

My heart, pulsating. On his other arm

My lady, wrapped in thinnest gossamers, slept.

He, having roused her from her sleep, then made

My heart her feast—devoured, with alarm.

Love then departed; as he left, he wept.

Featured in New Lyre Summer 2023

Loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Jul 18, 2023

These are really excellent translations, Michael, and thank you so much for including them. They do add quite a lot to understanding exactly what Dante is talking about in this sonnet. As for poetry itself, (I mean great poetry, not what is mostly being written now) ideas of love and passion - especially those that seem stronger than death - are absolutely essential ingredients. That's why I've always been drawn to the idea that true love is like a lightning strike, or a thunderbolt in the darkness - something that announces itself boldly and dramatically, then knocks you out of kilter, leaving you stunned, terrified and wanting more! So give us more Dante and Sappho and let the Muses live…

Michael R. Burch
Michael R. Burch
Jul 18, 2023
Replying to

Yes, and the great poets find ways to express such things, through metaphor and evocative language.


Jul 18, 2023

This is a very fine translation of the sonnet which Dante later used as an introduction to his Vito Nuova. It opens with the poet addressing his specific readers - those who are concerned with the mysteries of love, and who try, therefore, to make contact with the true source of poetic inspiration. Then Dante goes on to record his dream, his vision, in which love suddenly announced its beautiful and terrifying arrival in his life (there is a subtle parallel suggested here between Dante's vision and the Annunciation) and how it came to possess his soul - an act which is symbolised by the phrase 'made my heart her feast'. Well done, Michael, for tackling this little masterpiece, and…

Michael R. Burch
Michael R. Burch
Jul 18, 2023
Replying to

Thanks Martin. I have always liked poems that are open to interpretation. This poem reminds me of the Sappho epigram in which she compares Eros to a hurricane toppling oaks on a mountainside... Sappho, fragment 47

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:

wild winds whipping desolate mountains,

uprooting oaks. This is another ancient Greek poem with a similar theme... Ibykos Fragment 286, Circa 564 B.C.

loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Come spring, the grand

apple trees stand

watered by a gushing river

where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver

and the blossoming grape vine swells

in the gathering shadows.


for me

Eros never rests

but like a Thracian tempest

ablaze with lightning

emanates from Aphrodite;

the results are…

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