Chi è fermato di menar sua vita

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Author: Francesco Petrarca in Il Canzoniere. 80

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Text and translations

Italian.png Italian text

1  Chi è fermato di menar sua vita
su per l'onde fallaci et per gli scogli
scevro da morte con un picciol legno,
non pò molto lontan esser dal fine:
però sarrebbe da ritrarsi in porto
mentre al governo anchor crede la vela.

2  L'aura soave a cui governo et vela
commisi entrando a l'amorosa vita
et sperando venire a miglior porto,
poi mi condusse in piú di mille scogli;
et le cagion' del mio doglioso fine
non pur d'intorno avea, ma dentro al legno.

3  Chiuso gran tempo in questo cieco legno
errai, senza levar occhio a la vela
ch'anzi al mio dí mi trasportava al fine;
poi piacque a lui che mi produsse in vita
chiamarme tanto indietro da li scogli
ch'almen da lunge m'apparisse il porto.

4  Come lume di notte in alcun porto
vide mai d'alto mar nave né legno
se non gliel tolse o tempestate o scogli,
cosí di su da la gomfiata vela
vid'io le 'nsegne di quell'altra vita,
et allor sospirai verso 'l mio fine.

5  Non perch'io sia securo anchor del fine:
ché volendo col giorno esser a porto
è gran vïaggio in cosí poca vita;
poi temo, ché mi veggio in fraile legno,
et piú che non vorrei piena la vela
del vento che mi pinse in questi scogli.

6  S'io esca vivo de' dubbiosi scogli,
et arrive il mio exilio ad un bel fine,
ch'i' sarei vago di voltar la vela,
et l'anchore gittar in qualche porto!
Se non ch'i' ardo come acceso legno,
sí m'è duro a lassar l'usata vita.

Signor de la mia fine et de la vita,
prima ch'i' fiacchi il legno tra gli scogli
drizza a buon porto l'affannata vela.

Canzoniere 80
German.png German translation

4  So wie bei Nacht den Leuchtturm in dem Hafen
auf hohem Meer ein Schiff erblickt, ein Nachen,
wenn Wetter es nicht wehren oder Klippen:
So sah ich über dem geschwellten Segel
die Hoffnungssterne zu dem bessern Leben,
und seufzte damals ich nach meinem Ende.

English.png English translation

1  He who is set on living out his life
on the treacherous sea and near the rocks,
saved from death by a little vessel,
cannot be far from his own end:
unless he knows how to return to port
while the tiller still directs the sails.

2  The gentle breeze to which my tiller and sails
were entrusted, entering beloved life
and hoping to reach a better port,
carried me then among a thousand rocks:
and the causes of my sorrowful end
were not just outside but inside the vessel.

3  Trapped for a long time in this blind vessel
I wandered, not lifting my eyes to the sails
carrying me, before my time, to my end:
then it pleased Him who brought me into life
to call me back, far enough from the rocks
that some way off I could see the port.

4  As a light at night, burning in port,
is seen on the high seas by any vessel
if it's not hidden by a storm or rocks,
so, from above my swelling sails,
I saw the emblem of that other life,
and then I sighed towards my end.

5  Not that I am yet certain of my end:
who wishes while day remains, to reach port
make's a long voyage in so short a life:
I'm afraid, sailing so frail a vessel,
mostly I wish the wind not to fill my sails
that wind that drove me on the rocks.

6  If I escape alive from dangerous rocks,
and my exile comes to a good end,
I'd be content to furl my sails,
and cast anchor in any port!
If only I don't blaze, a burning vessel:
it's so hard for me to leave the old life.

Lord of my end, and of my life,
before my vessel shatters on the rocks,
drive me to port, with storm-tossed sails.

Translation by Anthony S. Kline ©
English.png English translation

1 Whoever chooses to lead their life
on the sly waves amidst the rocks,
kept from death by a tiny wooden boat,
can never be far from their end.
But with luck they might get back to port
while the rudder still directs the sail.

2 The breeze was gentle when I hoisted sail,
setting a course for love and life,
hoping to find a better port.
The wind almost blew me onto the rocks,
but the real cause of my sad end
was not out there, but with me in the boat.

3 For ages, I cowered in that blind boat,
drifting, not daring to look up at the sail
that had carried me to such an early end.
But then it pleased Him who gave me life
to draw me far enough from those rocks
that I could glimpse the distant port.

4 At night, if a beacon is lit in any port,
it shines across the high seas to a boat
(if the storms don't block it, or the rocks).
In that same way, above my bellying sail
I saw the star that signalled that other life
and I longed to make an end.

5 I am not yet sure of that end.
I hope for daylight—enough to reach port;
but that's a long voyage in a short life.
I am afraid, looking at this frail boat:
I dread a squall that would rip the sail
and drive me onto those rocks.

6 If I could escape these treacherous rocks
and bring my exile to a good end,
I would gladly furl the sail
and drop anchor in any port.
But I am on fire, like a burning boat
caught in the whirlpool of a former life.

Lord of my end, Lord of my life:
keep my boat from breaking on those rocks!
Point my tattered sail towards a safe port!

Translation by Nicholas Jones

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