Friday, May 10, 2013

Of middle May within a garden green

I’ mi trovai, fanciulle...

Angelo Poliziano 1454 - 1494

Politiano, detail from Sassetti Chapel, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Santa Trinità

Angelo (or Angiolo) Poliziano, (Angiolo Ambrogini da Montepulciano), was born at Montepulciano and became tutor to the sons of Lorenzo de’ Medici; in 1480 he was professor of Greek and Latin literature at Florence; he held many benefices which were withdrawn on the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici in 1492; Poliziano died two years later. He wrote  numerous Latin poems, and, in Italian, lyrics, stanzas in praise of a tournament in which Giuliano, Lorenzo’s brother, had taken part, and the Orfeo, a lyrical drama. He perfected the ottava rima; was among the first scholars of the Renaissance, and a poet of great artistry.

Here is a ballad of his which illustrates both the art of the poet and the natural 'art' of the garden: 

'Violets bloomed round about and lilies too
In verdant grass and buds of every hue',
detail from Botticelli's Primavera

I’ mi trovai, fanciulle, un bel mattino
di mezzo maggio in un verde giardino.
Erano intorno vïolette e gigli
fra l’erba verde, e vaghi fior novelli,  
 azzurri, gialli, candidi e vermigli:
ond’io porsi la mano a côr di quelli
per adornare e mie biondi capelli,
e cinger di grillanda el vago crino.
Ma poi ch’i’ ebbi pien di fiori un lembo,  
 vidi le rose, e non pur d’un colore;
io colsi allor per empier tutto el grembo,
perch’era sì soave el loro odore

che tutto mi senti’ destar el core
di dolce voglia e d’un piacer divino.  
I’ posi mente quelle rose allora:
mai non vi potrei dir quanto eron belle!
Quale scoppiava dalla boccia ancora
quale eron un po’ passe e qual novelle.
Amor mi disse allor: “Va’ co’ di quelle  
che più vedi fiorire in sullo spino”.
Quando la rosa ogni sua foglia spande,
quando è più bella, quando è più gradita,
allora è buona a mettere in ghirlande,
prima che suo bellezza sia fuggita.  
 Sì che, fanciulle, mentre è più fiorita,
cogliàn la bella rosa del giardino.

within a garden green

Maidens, I found myself one morn serene
Of middle May within a garden green.
Violets bloomed round about and lilies too
In verdant grass and buds of every hue,
Azure and gold and purest white and red,
Whereat to gather them my fingers sped,
That I might deck therewith my flaxen hair
And weave a garland for my forehead fair
Maidens, I found myself . . . .
   But when I’d well-night culled a lapful, lo,
I saw the roses multi-coloured, so
I ran to fill my skirts with them and they
Breathed such rare fragrancy that straight away
I felt awaken in this heart of mine
Tender desire and happiness divine.
Maidens, I found myself . . . .
   To savour the sweet roses I was fain,
But to describe their loveliness were vain;
Some I beheld just bursting into flower,
Some still in bud, some who had spent their dower:Then Love said unto me: “Go, gather them
Thou seest most sweetly blooming on the stem!”
Maidens, I found myself . . . .
   When the rose every petal doth unfold,
When she is tenderest, fairest to behold,
Before her loveliness hath passed its prime,
To set her in a garland it is time.
So, maidens, let us go and pull the rose
When she most sweetly in the garden blows.
Maidens, I found myself . . . .

Trans. from An Anthology of Italian Poems 13th-19th Century selected and translated by Lorna de’ Lucchi, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1922

Biographical notes also from translation edition above; for a more complete biography look here

Thanks to Acanthus for drawing my attention to this delightful poem.

1 comment:

  1. Charming flowering spring scenes with matching poem sets the mood for May.The iris and rose gardens in Firenze deserve publicity.


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