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  #1  
Unread 01-08-2022, 09:47 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Default Petrarch 90 (hair again)

Francesco Petrarca (Tuscan, 1304-1374)

Her hair of gold was scattered by the air
Sonnet 90

DRAFT TWO

Her hair of gold was scattered by the air
into a thousand twistings, gently knit;
and countless times, a scintillation lit
those lovely eyes, in which the light's now rare.

To me, her face seemed kind, though I can't swear
her pity's hues were true, or counterfeit;
and I, who in my chest kept tinder set
for love, caught fire at once. (What wonder there?)

It wasn’t mortal, but angelic, how
she moved; her speech, as well, did not appear it
was how a merely human voice is tuned.

A living sun, a sky-descended spirit,
was what I saw: and if she’s less so now,
the bow’s unstringing doesn’t heal the wound.


L3 was (after a period in L2):
Too frequently to count, a twinkle lit


DRAFT ONE

Her hair of gold was scattered by the air
into a thousand twistings, gently knit;
and past all measurement, a twinkle lit
those lovely eyes, in which it’s now so rare.

To me, her pitying face seemed hued by care—
I don’t know now if true or counterfeit;
and I, whose chest held tinder ready-set
for love, caught fire at once—what wonder there?

It wasn’t mortal, but angelic, how
she walked; and furthermore, her voice, to hear it,
was not how purely human speech is tuned;

a living sun, a heaven-dwelling spirit
was what I saw: and if she’s not so now,
the bow’s unstringing doesn’t heal the wound.

L3 was:
and past all measure, passion’s twinkle lit
L5 was:
To me, her face seemed hued by heartfelt care—



ITALIAN ORIGINAL                                LITERAL ENGLISH PROSE CRIB

Erano i capei d’oro a l’aura sparsi                 They were, the/her hairs (capelli) of gold, in the air/breeze spread,
che ’n mille dolci nodi gli avvolgea,                 which into a thousand sweet/gentle knots/tangles wound them,
e ’l vago lume oltra misura ardea                 and the vague/dim/desirable/wandering (several definitions) light beyond measure was burning
di quel begli occhi, ch’or ne son si scarsi;                 of those beautiful eyes, which now of it are so deprived/in it are so scarce;

e ’l viso di pietosi color’ farsi,                 and the/her face to become of sympathetic/pity-feeling colors, (could be "to be dressed in...colors")
non so se vero o falso, mi parea:                 I don’t know whether true or false, it seemed to me:
i’ che l’esca amorosa al petto avea,                 I (io) who had (avea) the amorous food/bait in my chest,
qual meraviglia se di sùbito arsi?                 what wonder if I suddenly (was) burned?

Non era l’andar suo cosa mortale,                 It wasn’t, the/her walk, a mortal thing,
ma d’angelica forma; e le parole                 but of angelic form; and the/her words
sonavan altro che, pur voce umana;                 sounded different than (a) purely human voice;

uno spirito celeste, un vivo sole                 a celestial spirit, a living sun
fu quel ch’i vidi: e se non fosse or tale,                 was what I saw: and if she be not now such,
piagha per allentar d’arco non sana.                 (the) wound (piaga) by slackening the bow is not healed.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 01-09-2022 at 10:13 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 01-08-2022, 10:12 AM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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First, I like the poem! And the last three lines of your translation surprass even the slow crescendo of each preceding image. I have been an utter fool for love, and the visual hair color is reasonably trivial. Looks are just a clue to good health. I will once again take out my Petrarch—as if I were a fool for love—this pulls me back. Should I go there? Even for a poem? Very nice. No critiques at present. Possibly later, possibly.
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Unread 01-08-2022, 01:39 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Julie, I am having a lot of trouble following the argument, especially in the octave. What is the now that is being compared to the then? Was this written after she had died of plague or just after a lot of years had passed (and presumably reduced her unearthly loveliness)?

Susan
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Unread 01-08-2022, 07:17 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Glad you enjoyed it, Allen. I hope you still like Draft Two, above.

Susan, I think L4 and L13 just refer to the fact that Laura has lost physical beauty with age. In contrast, Petrarch's sonnet 292 uses some of the same imagery, but in that one it's clear that she has actually died. I hope "less so now" rather than "not so now" in L13 helps a bit, although I suppose it could still apply to a corpse, heh.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 01-09-2022 at 12:25 AM.
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Unread 01-09-2022, 09:02 AM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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I like draft two better on the whole. It is an improvement—Except for the “ly” on “frequent” in stanza one. You could drop that “ly”, which is distracts by throwing things into an active present scene that doesn’t fit. Don’t worry about the meter; cutting that won’t hurt. Or try something else like “numerous” or “plentiful” or whatever multiplicity you think works well.

I agree that the feel of this is that the beloved is yet alive and well. He doesn’t care about her age. Why would he?
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Unread 01-09-2022, 10:16 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Thanks, Allen. I've tweaked L3 above in response to your comment.
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Unread 01-13-2022, 03:41 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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The name Petrarch caught my eye on the main page, so I had to stop by. Your latest draft is better than draft 1, but some more tuning would be worth considering.

A few thoughts:

I like the opening 2 lines a lot, though the hard sounds of “twistings” might be substituted with something more delicate, such as “a thousand loops [or twirls], so gently knit” in keeping with the poem’s Platonizing beauty.

Line 3 in the first quatrain loses/adds senses from the original, which I think changes the meaning too much. “Countless times” is added, and doesn’t really go with the constant heartache Petrarch writes about. Also, “scintillation lit” isn’t bad for vago lume but the nuances of vago, part elusive and part amorous, are lost. There are 4 syllables there, which I believe could be put to better use.

In the second quatrain’s opening with “To me” is redundant, since the seeming is clearly happening to the speaker. And another verb for avea besides “kept” would be better, imo, since keeping implies choice. Maybe “held”? I do like “tinder” for esca. Nice one there.

I don’t like the way that quatrain ends, with that parenthetical aside, though I know how hard the rhyme scheme is. Not sure what to suggest, but I think there must be a more elegant way to get that in there. “Tuned” feels a little off for sonavan, but it would work better if the syntax in that passage felt more natural or elegant.

The opening of the sestet is very nice: I like “how / she moved” for l’andar. But lines 10-11 are awkwardly worded and grammatically forced (“it” is added only for the rhyme).

In the final tercet, “sky-descended” is really quite different from celeste, since heavenly or celestial is meant as a metaphysical state. And it doesn’t say she had descended, just that she is a heavenly spirit. I think that final tercet is otherwise very nice, and the last line is beautiful.
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Unread 02-15-2022, 01:10 AM
Alexander Givental Alexander Givental is offline
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Default Some suggestions for draft two

Dear Julie, sorry if my comment arrives too late: I've just joined the forum and found this very nice (at least in translation - can't judge about the original:-) sonnet. Here are some suggestions - for whatever they're worth.

I do find the rhyme "appear it/spirit" creative but the sentence very hard to parse. How about this (more mundane) attempt:
"... she moved; her voice, it seemed, was not intended /
for what a merely human ear's attuned. /
A living sun [or even: A sun on Earth,] a spirit sky-descended"

Also, I don't hear "set" as a valid rhyme to "knit-lit-counterfeit".
How about the following idea: (a) alter L3 and L4 somehow from "something lit the eyes" into "eyes emit" (something) and then (b) use "lit" in L7 resorting to the metaphor:
in the heart (= furnace) a pilot light is lit ready to ignite?
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Unread 02-19-2022, 02:47 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Sorry for the long non-response. I had thanked Andrew by PM, but I've neglected Alexander--in part because I'm still spinning my wheels and don't have a revision I'm happy with yet. I will keep trying to take your advice to heart, gentlemen. I'm very appreciative of it.

I'm going to bump up Susan's Rilke now so it can get the visibility it deserves.
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  #10  
Unread 02-20-2022, 11:00 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Julie, why are you avoiding "hair" as a rhyme word? Air does not scatter hair unless there is a breeze. I might suggest something like "A wafting breeze dispersed her golden hair" for L1. How about something like "and dreamy light beyond all measure lit" for L3? "Pity's hues" sounds very odd to me. Perhaps something like "sympathy" instead? I am not sure that "hues" really goes with the feeling. To get a true rhyme in L7, how about "fit" instead of "set"? I don't like your "appear it / spirit" rhyme; it sounds forced. Why not rhyme on "sun" instead? I'd suggest something like "the timbre of her speech like none / with which a merely human voice is tuned." Then for L12 you could do something like "A spirit from the skies, a living sun."

Susan
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