Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
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Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
 
Beauty and Duty
By Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)
 
Translated by Samuel Waddington

LO, 1 throned upon my spirit’s loftiest height,
  Here of true love discourse fair ladies twain;
  And one, with honoured prudence in her train,
  In valorous courtesy is richly dight:—
The other glistens with the golden light        5
  Of smiles and winning grace, where beauties reign;
  And I, of each enamoured, still remain
  The slave of each, as Love asserts his might.
Beauty and Duty, these my spirit woo,
  And urge their suit, doubting if loyal kiss        10
  To both can e’er be given, and faithful prove:
Yet saith the fount of gentle speech and true,—
  “Both may be thine!—Beauty, for dearest bliss;
  But Duty, for good deeds, shall win thy love.”
 
Note 1. The first eight lines of D. G. Rossetti’s translation of this sonnet are as follows:—
  “Two ladies to the summit of my mind
  Have clomb, to hold an argument of love;
  The one has wisdom with her from above,
  For every noblest virtue well design’d;
The other beauty’s tempting power refined
  And the high charm of perfect grace approve:
  And I, as my sweet Master’s will doth move,
  At feet of both their favours am reclined.”
The expression, “the summit of my mind,” may, perhaps, appear to some to be rather prosaic, but Rossetti seems to have taken it from Lyell’s blank-verse rendering of this sonnet, published nearly fifty years ago, beginning—
  “Two ladies on the summit of my mind
Their station take, to hold discourse of love.”
Mr. Lyell was a friend, it will be remembered, of Rossetti’s father. The third and fourth lines of this sonnet in the original are—
  “L’una ha in sè cortesia e valore,
Prudenzia ed onestate ’n compagnia.”
None of Rossetti’s translations have been included in this volume, as the permission of the publishers could not be obtained. [back]
 
 
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