Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
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Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
 
Violets
By Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449–1492)
 
Translated by William Roscoe

NOT 1 from the verdant garden’s cultured bound,
  That breathes of Poestum’s aromatic gale,
  We sprung; but nurslings of the lonely vale,
  ’Mid woods obscure, and native glooms were found:—
’Mid woods and glooms, whose tangled brakes around        5
  Once Venus sorrowing traced, as all forlorn
  She sought Adonis, when a lurking thorn
  Deep on her foot impressed an impious wound.
Then prone to earth we bowed our pallid flowers,
  And caught the drops divine; the purple dyes        10
  Tinging the lustre of our native hue:
Nor summer gales, nor art-conducted showers
  Have nursed our slender forms, but lovers’ sighs
  Have been our gales, and lovers’ tears our dew.
 
Note 1. Muratori in his treatise on the poetry of Italy bestows high praise on the sonnets of Lorenzo de’ Medici, and of one of them he writes, “It is gold from the mine, mixed indeed with coarser materials, yet it is always gold.” Lorenzo, surnamed the Magnificent, was born on 1st January 1448, and succeeded his father as the head of the republic of Florence at the age of twenty-three. His learning and delight in literature and art procured for him the name of the Augustus of Florence, and his influence, we are told, made that town the favoured seat of letters during his lifetime. “In a villa,” writes Henry Hallam, “overhanging the towers of Florence, on the steep slope of that lofty hill crowned by the mother city, the ancient Fiesole, in gardens which Tully might have envied, with Ficino, Landino, and Politian at his side, he delighted his hours of leisure with the beautiful visions of Platonic philosophy, for which the summer stillness of an Italian sky appears the most congenial accompaniment.”… “The same curious spirit which led him to fill his garden at Careggi with exotic flowers of the East, the first instance of a botanical collection in Europe, had introduced a new animal from the same regions. Herds of buffaloes, since naturalised in Italy, whose dingy hide, bent neck, curved horns, and lowering aspect contrasted with the greyish hue and full, mild eye of the Tuscan oxen, pastured in the valley, down which the yellow Arno steals silently through its long reaches to the sea.” This is a pleasant picture, and life, one thinks, were indeed well worth living under such favourable conditions.
  A large portion of Lorenzo’s poetry is religious, but the following sonnet is in his lighter strain. It is taken from the London Magazine, where the translator’s name is not given:—
  “Oft on the recollection sweet I dwell,—
Yea, never from my mind can aught efface
The dress my mistress wore, the time, the place,
Where first she fixed my eyes in raptured spell.
How she then looked, thou, Love, remember’st well,
For thou her side hast never ceased to grace;
Her gentle air, her meek, angelic face,
The powers of language and of thought excel.
When o’er the mountain-peaks deep-clad in snow
Apollo pours a flood of golden light,
So down her white-robed limbs did stream her hair:
The time and place ’t were words but lost to show;
It must be day, where shines a sun so bright,
And Paradise where dwells a form so fair.”
  Lorenzo died in 1492, and the story of his life has been the subject of many biographers. In our own country William Roscoe published in the year 1800 an account of the life of Lorenzo in three volumes, from which are taken the three translations given here. [back]
 
 
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