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CANZONE: 17. HE BESEECHES DEATH FOR THE LIFE OF BEATRICE, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Death, since I find not one with whom to grieve
Last Line: Shall keep the blessed spirit that I praise.
Alternate Author Name(s): Dante; Alighieri, Dante
Subject(s): Death; Italian Renaissance; Dead, The

Death, since I find not one with whom to grieve,
Nor whom this grief of mine may move to tears,
Whereso I be or whitherso I turn:
Since it is thou who in my soul wilt leave
No single joy, but chill'st it with just fears
And makest it in fruitless hopes to burn:
Since thou, Death, and thou only, canst decern
Wealth to my life, or want, at thy free choice: --
It is to thee that I lift up my voice,
Bowing my face that's like a face just dead.
I come to thee, as to one pitying,
In grief for that sweet rest which nought can bring
Again, if thou but once be entered
Into her life whom my heart cherishes
Even as the only portal of its peace.
Death, how most sweet the peace is that thy grace
Can grant to me, and that I pray thee for,
Thou easily mayst know by a sure sign,
If in mine eyes thou look a little space
And read in them the hidden dread they store, --
If upon all thou look which proves me thine.
Since the fear only maketh me to pine
After this sort, -- what will mine anguish be
When her eyes close, of dreadful verity,
In whose light is the light of mine own eyes?
But now I know that thou wouldst have my life
As hers, and joy'st thee in my fruitless strife.
Yet I do think this which I feel implies
That soon, when I would die to flee from pain,
I shall find none by whom I may be slain.
Death, if indeed thou smite this gentle one
Whose outward worth but tells the intellect
How wondrous is the miracle within, --
Thou biddest Virtue rise up and begone,
Thou dost away with Mercy's best effect,
Thou spoil'st the mansion of God's sojourning.
Yea, unto nought her beauty thou dost bring
Which is above all other beauties, even
In so much as befitteth one whom Heaven
Sent upon earth in token of its own.
Thou dost break through the perfect trust which hath
Been alway her companion in Love's path:
The light once darkened which was hers alone,
Love needs must say to them he ruleth o'er,
"I have lost the noble banner that I bore.'
Death, have some pity then for all the ill
Which cannot choose but happen if she die,
And which will be the sorest ever known.
Slacken the string, if so it be thy will,
That the sharp arrow leave it not, -- thereby
Sparing her life, which if it flies is flown.
O Death, for God's sake, be some pity shown!
Restrain within thyself, even at its height,
The cruel wrath which moveth thee to smite
Her in whom God hath set so much of grace.
Show now some ruth if 'tis a thing thou hast!
I seem to see Heaven's gate, that is shut fast,
Open, and angels filling all the space
About me, -- come to fetch her soul whose laud
Is sung by saints and angels before God.
Song, thou must surely see how fine a thread
This is that my last hope is holden by,
And what I should be brought to without her.
Therefore for thy plain speech and lowlihead
Make thou no pause: but go immediately,
Knowing thyself for my heart's minister,
And with that very meek and piteous air
Thou hast, stand up before the face of Death,
To wrench away the bar that prisoneth
And win unto the place of the good fruit.
And if indeed thou shake by thy soft voice
Death's mortal purpose, -- haste thee and rejoice
Our lady with the issue of thy suit.
So yet awhile our earthly nights and days
Shall keep the blessed spirit that I praise.

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