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

Here are three more examples of Dante's medieval love poetry taken from La Vita Nuova:

7. ‘Spesse fiate’.

Often it is brought home to my mind

the dark quality that Love gives me,

and pity moves me, so that frequently

I say: ‘Alas! is anyone so afflicted?’:

since Amor assails me suddenly,

so that life almost abandons me:

only a single spirit stays with me,

and that remains because it speaks of you.

I renew my strength, because I wish for help,

and pale like this, all my courage drained,

come to you, believing it will save me:

and if I lift my eyes to gaze at you

my heart begins to tremble so,

that from my pulse the soul departs.

Dante's passion clearly exhibits the ability attributed to Italians for effussive outpourings of ardour and elaborate flowery language. It is not always to everyone's taste, but these are undisputed masterly examples of medieval love poetry from perhaps the greatest exponent of the genre.

In this next example, ‘Amore e´l cor gentil’ (Love and the gentle heart), Dante gives his own personal view of the nature of love:

8. ‘Amore e´l cor gentil’.

Love and the gentle heart are one thing,

as the wise man puts it in his verse,

and each without the other would be dust,

as a rational soul would be without its reason.

Nature, when she is loving, takes

Amor for lord, and the heart for his home,

in which sleeping he reposes

sometimes a short, sometimes a longer day.

Beauty may appear, in a wise lady,

so pleasant to the eyes, that in the heart,

is born a desire for pleasant things:

which stays so long a time in that place,

that it makes the spirit of Love wake.

And likewise in a lady works a worthy man.

I particularly like this offering of medieval love poetry from Dante. Let us take another one. This time Dante tells us how Beatrice awakens love:

9. ‘Ne li occhi porta’.

In her eyes my lady bears Love,

by which she makes noble what she gazes on:

where she passes, all men turn their look on her,

and she makes the heart tremble in him she greets,

so that, all pale, he lowers his eyes,

and sighs, then, over all his failings:

anger and pride fleeing before her.

Help me, ladies, to do her honour.

All sweetness, all humble thought

are born in the heart of him who hears her speak,

and he who first saw her is blessed.

How she looks when she smiles a little,

can not be spoken of, or held in mind,

she is so rare a miracle and gentle.

In this example of medieval love poetry, we can see how the poet idealises and revers his amor. The spirit of courtly love is very much in evidence once again.

You can view more examples of Dante's medieval love poetry here:

Dante 5

Petrarch 1

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