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2 To Giovanni Quirino (trans. by Rossetti in Dante and his

This Life and the Nert

4

Imprints: and from this germ, this firstling spark,
The lively flame dilates; and, like heaven's star,
Doth glitter in me.1

The King, by whose rich grace His servants be

With plenty beyond measure set to dwell,

Ordains that I my bitter wrath dispel
And lift mine eyes to the great consistory;
Till, noting how in glorious quires agree

The citizens of that fair citadel,

To the Creator I His creature swell
Their song, and all their love possesses me.
So, when I contemplate the great reward

To which our God has called the Christian seed,

I long for nothing else but only this.
And then my soul is grieved in thy regard,

Dear friend, who reck’st not of thy nearest need,
Renouncing for slight joys the perfect bliss.?

FRANCESCO PETRARCA

(1304-1374) OH blessed life everlasting promised to us.--life in

which there is no past, no future, in which everything belongs to the present ! In that life our desires and our hopes will be fulfilled; we shall for ever rejoice in truth, our only blessedness. There, all that once delighted us does delight us, and will delight us immu

1 From Paradise, Canto xxiv. (the Poet's reply to St. Peter);

Circle).

tably and for evermore,—we shall rejoice in our hearts' desire without its being lessened; it will be fulfilled, but not quenched; it will be appeased and kept alive; it will never be lost by satiety nor be marred by change and chance, by care and fear. Happy the pilgrim who, guided by divine mercy, enters at last upon that life.

Why should it trouble me that I am old, if it does not trouble me that I am living? Life without old age cannot be long. I should not wish to be younger, but to have led a more virtuous and laborious life. There is nothing I so much lament as my not having been able to do in a given time what I ought to have done. Hence I work with all my might to make up towards evening for the idleness in which I spent the day, and I often think of the saying of that wise prince Cæsar Augustus: “What is done well is always done without delay”; of the philosophical utterance of the great Plato: “Happy he who can even in his old age enrich his mind with wisdom and truth”; or of the catholic maxim of Saint Ambrose : “Happy is he who, though stricken in years, has forsaken the way of error; happy he who, under the very sickle of death, freed his soul from vice.” 2

i From Thoughts from the Letters of Petrarch (“Letters of Old Age”), Bk. iii., letter 9 (trans. by J. Lohse).

2 lbid. Bk. xvii., letter 2.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER

(Circa 1340-1400)

THOUSANDE tymes I have herd telle,

There ys joy in hevene, and peyne in helle,
And I accorde wel that it ys so;
But, natheles, yet wot I wel also,
That ther is noon dwellyng in this countree,
That eythir hath in hevene or helle ybe,
Ne
may

of hit noon other weyes witen,
But as he hath herd seyde, or founde it writen ;
For by assay ther may no man it preve.

But God forbede but men shulde leve
Wel more thing then men han seen with eye!
Men shal not wenen every thing a lye
But yf hymselfe yt seeth, or elles dooth;
For, God wot, thing is never the lasse sooth
Thogh every wight ne may it not ysee.

1

MICHEL ANGELO

BUONARROTI (1474–1564)

Now hath my life across a stormy sea,

TOW hath

Like a frail bark, reached that wide port where all Are bidden, ere the final reckoning fall Of good and evil for eternity.

1 From Prologue of Nine Goode Wymmen.

Now know I well how that fond phantasy

Which made my soul the worshipper and thrall
Of earthly art, is vain; how criminal

Is that which all men seek unwillingly.
Those amorous thoughts which were so lightly dressed,

What are they when the double death is nigh?

The one I know for sure, the other dread. Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest

My soul, that turns to His great love on high, Whose arms to clasp us on the cross were spread."

The fables of the world have filched

away The time I had for thinking upon God; His grace lies buried 'neath oblivion's sod,

Whence springs an evil crop of sins alway.
What makes another wise leads me astray,

Slow to discern the bad path I have trod :
Hope fades, but still desire ascends that God

May free me from self-love, my sure decay.
Shorten half-way my road to heaven from earth!

Dear Lord, I cannot even half-way rise

Unless Thou help me on this pilgrimage.
Teach me to hate the world so little worth,

And all the lovely things I clasp and prize,
That endless life, ere death, may be my wage.?

If life gives us pleasure, we ought not to expect displeasure from death, seeing it is made by the hand of the same master.3

tter to Vasari, Sept. 1554 (trans. by J. A. Symonds). 2 In letter to Vasari, about the same period (same translator).

3 In Life, by Vasari.

1

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SIR THOMAS MORE (1478–1535)

So

10

Which all the pleasure hath, mirth and disport
That in this world is possible to be,
Yet till the time that he

may once resort
Unto that blessed, joyful, heavenly port,
Where he of God may have the glorious sight,
Is void of perfect joy and sure delight.1

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[In the church of his village (wrote Erasmus in 1532-33) Sir Thomas More has constructed a family tomb. .. On the wall he has placed a tablet with a record of his life and his intentions :-]

And that this tomb made for him in his lifetime be not in vain, nor that he fear death coming upon him, but that he may willingly, for the desire of Christ, die and find death not utterly death to him, but the gate of a wealthier life, help him, I beseech you, good reader, now with your prayers while he liveth, and when he is dead also.

I have lived, methinketh, a long life, and now neither I look nor long to live much longer. I have, since I came to the Tower, looked once or twice to have given up my ghost ere this, and, in good faith, my heart waxed the lighter with hope thereof. Yet forgot I not that I have a long reckoning and a great to give account of. But I put my trust in God, and in the merits of His bitter Passion, and I beseech Him to give

1 From Twelve Rules of John Picus, etc.

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