To His Lady
Beloved beauty who inspires

love in me from afar, your face obscured

except when your celestial image

stirs my heart in sleep, or in the fields

where light and nature’s laughter shine more lovely—

was it maybe you who blessed

the innocent age called golden,

and do you now, blithe spirit,

fly among men? Or does that miser fate

who hides you from us save you for the future?

No hope of seeing you alive

remains for me now,

except when, naked and alone,

my soul will go down a new street

to its unknown home. Already at the dawn

of my dark, uncertain day

I imagined you a fellow traveler

on this arid ground. But there’s no thing

that resembles you on earth. And if someone

had a face like yours, in act and word she’d be,

though something like you, far less beautiful.

In spite of all the suffering

fate decreed for human time,

if there were anyone on earth

who truly loved you as my thought depicts you,

this life for him would be a blessing.

And I see clearly how your love

would lead me still to strive for praise and virtue,

as I used to in my early years.

Though heaven gave no comfort for our troubles,

yet with you mortal life would be

like what in heaven leads to divinity.

In the valleys, where the song

of the weary farmer sounds,

and when I sit and mourn

the illusions of youth fading,

and on the hills where I recall

and grieve for my lost desires

and my life’s lost hope, I think of you

and start to shake. If only I, in this

sad age and unhealthy atmosphere,

could keep hold of your noble look; for since the real thing’s

missing I must make do with the image.

Whether you are the only one

of the eternal ideas eternal wisdom

refuses to see arrayed in sensible form

to know the pains of mortal life

in transitory spoils,

or if in the supernal spheres another earth

from among unnumbered worlds receives you

and a near star lovelier than the Sun

warms you and you breathe benigner ether,

from here, where years are both ill-starred and brief,

accept this hymn from your unnoticed lover.



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