Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Canzoniere 61 – process July 11, 2011

Filed under: Grace Awakening,Poetry,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 2:11 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s a picture of my day. Today’s project was translating a sonnet from Petrarch’s original Italian into English. I had received permission from Penguin to use a translation by Anthony Mortimer of Canzoniere 13 for Grace Awakening, but after the publisher went out of business, I let the deadline to pay for the use go past. I still wanted a Petrarchan Canzoniere in that particular section of the novel though, and that meant I had to do my own translation.  I also wanted it to rhyme following Petrarch’s strict scheme, and I wanted it to be in iambic pentameter.

I started with the public domain version of the original Italian sonnet 61:

Benedetto sia ‘l giorno, et ‘l mese, et l’anno,
et la stagione, e ‘l tempo, et l’ora, e ‘l punto,
e ‘l bel paese, e ‘l loco ov’io fui giunto
da’duo begli occhi che legato m’ànno;

et benedetto il primo dolce affanno
ch’i’ ebbi ad esser con Amor congiunto,
et l’arco, et le saette ond’i’ fui punto,
et le piaghe che ‘nfin al cor mi vanno.

Benedette le voci tante ch’io
chiamando il nome de mia donna ò sparte,
e i sospiri, et le lagrime, e ‘l desio;

et benedette sian tutte le carte
ov’io fama l’acquisto, e ‘l pensier mio,
ch’è sol di lei, sí ch’altra non v’à parte.

My next step was to plug the poem into the Google translator to get the basics. The result was this:

Blessed be ‘the day, et’ the month, year et,
et the season, and ‘the time, et the time, and’ the point,
and ‘the beautiful country, and’ the spot where I arrived I was
da’duo beautiful eyes that tied m’ànno;

et blessed is the first sweet breath
ch’i ‘I had to be combined with Amor,
et l’arc, et Whence the arrows’ point was,
et the wounds’ Nfiniti go to my heart.

Blessed are the many voices that I
calling the name of my wife or esparto,
and the sighs, the tears et, and ‘the desire;

Blessed are all the cards et
known where I buy, and ‘s my thought,
which is only about her, yes that another party does not v’à.

Writing draft- false start and then the better flow

As you can see, while not perfect, it’s certainly good enough to know where he was going, and to catch the Italian words I wasn’t familiar with.  I could fill in the blanks from there.   I spent some time on, which is my go-to site when I’m creating a complex rhyming poem, and played with various options.  I baked a cake.  I instant messaged a friend in France. I went to a farewell party.  I watched Star Wars Episode IV (which is really still Episode one, to me).   I had a bath.  I read the editor’s most recent comments on Awakening Dreams.  I wrote lines.  I re-wrote lines.

As of this moment, I am satisfied with this result, although it may not be the final version.  I finished it at 2 a.m. so it’s allowed to not quite be perfect yet.  I have my iambic pentameter. I have Petrarca’s ABBA ABBA CDCDCD rhyme scheme.  I have stayed true to Petrarch’s intent in this poem, I think, and that’s the most important thing.

Most blesséd be the day, the month, the year
And blesséd be the hour and the moment
When I arrived to find my own torment.
Her lovely eyes completely tied me here;

So blesséd was her breath as I came near,
That Love entangled me within her scent,
Against the arrows left me impotent,
And bound my heart to hers, so thus endeared.

Dear blesséd voices call my lady’s name
And weave her glorious beauty in my verse.
My sighs, my tears, and my desires contained,

Most blesséd are the papers I disperse,
To share my thoughts that bring me fame,
The thoughts of her that are my joyful curse.




Translation (c) Shawn Bird 2011



6 Responses to “Canzoniere 61 – process”

  1. Vikki Says:


  2. Shawn Bird Says:

    Astute poets will notice a problem right in the second line. Inspection this morning made it stand out glaringly. MOMENT is trochaic, not iambic, so it throws the rhythm off the line. While I was working out at Curves today, I found a solution:

    And blesséd be the hour and the moment
    When I arrived to find my own torment.

    has become

    And blesséd be the hour, the moment when
    I found this place and saw my sweet torment

    Using ‘when’ to rhyme with ‘-ment’ creates an imperfect rhyme, of course, but it works. The Italian “punto” refers to a point in time or moment.

  3. […] in the week I led you through the process of translating Petrarch’s Canzoniere 61. I thought I’d share with you the final version that is going […]

  4. […] plain black wedges are plain no longer! They sport the complete Petrarchan sonnet Canzoniere 61, in Petrarca’s original Italian. You might remember that this is the poem I translated for […]

  5. yelena Says:

    thank you so much for sharing.. i know how difficult it is to keep the rhyme during the process of painting a classical poem in another language. i love your creative translation, i think it keeps the spirit of Petrarca and is very inspired (and inspiring)

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s