Upon young, erring thoughts I too once fed, Mentre da vaghi, e giovenil pensieri
Upon young, erring thoughts I too once fed:
now I was hopeful, now fearful; I cried,
I was sad, and then again I'd sing gaily
and all the while I was struggling against

my own desires, whether these were base
and deceitful or deluded, or these
were noble or simply intensely felt
in tingling flesh, in my gut, in my bones.

In vehement and pitiful accents,
I vented heartfelt thoughts, images,
loving, seeking pain rather than my own good,
I consumed whole days in melancholy.

Now my mind is nourished on other thoughts
and desires, and I have placed the dear
rhymes and style into an eternal silence.

If I then wandered, my present penitence
pushes away child-like foolishness: I see
it is wrong to advertise the soul's grief

Mentre da vaghi e giovenil penseri
fui nutrita, or temendo ora sperando,
piangendo or trista ed or lieta cantando,
da desir combattuta or falsi or veri,

con accenti sfogai pietosi e fieri
i concetti del cor, che, spesso amando
il suo mal assai pił che 'l ben cercando,
consumava doglioso i giorni intieri.

Or, che d'altri pensieri e d'altre voglie
pasco la mente, a le gią care rime
ho posto ed a lo stil silenzio eterno,

e se, allor vaneggiando, a quelle prime
sciocchezze intesi, ora il pentirmi toglie,
la colpa palesando, il duol interno.


Ruscelli-VG 1:1; Rizzardi 1:1; Chiapetti 1:3; 1995 Bullock 41:102-3. Previous translations: Jerrold 160-1; Poss 58-59; Stortoni and Lille 28-29. For Key see A Note on the Italian texts


This poem has often been placed first in Gambara's sequence. It alludes to Colonna's first sonnet, Scrivo sol per sfogar l'interna doglia" (I write to vent the inward pain my heart) in mind, and as in many other Italian Renaissance sonnet sequences, Colonna's first imitates Petrarch's first "Voi ch'ascoltate in rime sparse il suono", Durling 37). For Colonna's defensive response, see"Lasciar non posso i miei saldi penseri" (I can't let go the deeply-rooted faith).

Gambara's exchange with Colonna has not been written about in ways that make evident the great gulf in temperament this exchange makes clear. Gambara is talking of her own early poetry and reacting with a strong emotional revulsion towards her own characteristic subject. At the same time, she is as melancholy (depressed and angry) as she ever was. Neither this nor the second exchange between the women suggests any friendship existed before Gambara wrote, and there is no evidence to suggest they proceeded to become at all friendly afterwards. I would suppose Colonna startled at this unprovoked intrusion, were it not that numbers of Colonna's readers thought they had the right to admonish and try thus to silence her.

There is also no justification for beginning Gambara's sequence with this sonnet. Many of the older arrangements of a poet's oeuvre begin with all the powerful, famous or high-ranking people the poet knew, so the older editors began with an imitation of Petrarch which is addressed to Vittoria Colonna. Times have (I hope) changed; at any rate, my ordering makes visible the idea that we do not value Gambara's text for this ephemeral interaction with Colonna nor for having imitated Petrarch. For full history of variants, commentary and paraphrase see 1995 Bullock pp. 102-3n.

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