Medieval Love Poetry was enriched by Dante Alighieri's La Vita Nuova

Dante's great medieval love poetry epic La Vita Nuova dedicated to his great love Beatrice, continues to be our focus. Let us take a look at 3 more sonettos from this classic:

4. ‘Morte villana.’

Death the villain, enemy of pity,

ancient mother of sorrows,

justice incontestable and grave,

since you have given matter for the grieving heart

because of which I go pensive,

my tongue will weary blaming you.

And if by grace I can make you beg,

I will be forced to speak

of your guilt for all vile evils,

not because they are unknown to people,

but to make more extreme

those who go to love for nurture.

From the world you have driven courtesy

and virtue, that causes praise in women:

in joyful youthfulness

you have lightly destroyed loveliness.

I will not tell you who this lady is

except by naming her true qualities.

He who does not deserve grace

may no more hope to have her company.

The fifth example of Dante's medieval love poetry is ‘Tutti li mei penser’.(Every one of my thoughts)

5. ‘Tutti li mei penser’

Every one of my thoughts speaks of Love:

and they have in them such great variance,

that one makes me wish for his ruler-ship,

another claims that his worth is nothing,

another by hoping brings me sweetness,

another makes me weep constantly,

and they only agree in asking pity,

trembling with the fear that is in the heart.

Therefore I do not know which theme to choose:

and wish to speak, and know not what to say:

so that I find myself in a lover’s maze!

And if I wish to make them all accord,

I am forced to call on my enemy,

my lady Pity, and ask her to defend me.

‘Tutti li mei penser’ is a fine example of how medieval love poetry employed the conventions of courtly love, and is influenced by its paradox. Dear reader, can you spot these features?

Dante gives an explanation of the sonnet in his own words:

This sonetto can be divided into four parts: in the first I speak and declare that all my thoughts are of Love: in the second I say that they are diverse, and I describe their diversity: in the third I say in what way they seem in accord: in the fourth I say that wishing to speak of Love, I do not know which to choose as my theme, and if I wish to choose them all I am forced to call on my enemy, my lady Pity: and I say ‘my lady’ as a disdainful mode of speech. The second part begins with: ‘e hanno in lor: and they have in them’: the third with: ‘e sol s’accordano: and they only agree’: the fourth with: ‘Ond’io non so: Therefore I do not know’.

He goes further in the next offering of medieval love poetry, which tries to explain what happens to him when he is near the object of his affections:

6. ‘Ciò che m’incontra’.

All I encounter in my mind dies,

when I come to gaze on you, sweet joy:

and when I am near you, I feel Love

who says: ‘Run, if you care about dying’.

The face shows the colour of the heart,

that, fainting, leans for support:

and in the vast intoxicating tremor

the stones beneath me cry: Death, death.

They commit a sin who see me then,

if they do not comfort my bewildered soul,

if only by showing that they care for me,

through pity, which your mocking killed,

that is descried in the dying vision

of eyes that have wished for death.

If you enjoyed the examples of Dante's medieval love poetry on this page, and would like to see more, follow the links:

Dante 4

Petrarch 1

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