from The Banned Babylon Sonnets of Petrarch by Francesco Petrarca

Francesco Petrarca


May Heaven’s brimstone rain down, reprobate,
upon your hair since sin is such a thrill—
you who ate acorns, drank the river’s swill,
then robbed the poor to be both rich and great!
You nest of treachery, you incubate
for everybody almost every ill!
Slave to wine, beds and food, your overkill
produces proof that is beyond debate!
Girls and old goats cavort in every room, 
which for their frolics Satan has arrayed
with bellows, mirrors and the flames of doom.
You were not raised with cushions in the shade,
but nude and shoeless where the briars bloom—
may God now smell the stench your life has made!
Translated from the Italian by A.M. Juster

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022
Tribute to Translation


Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374), commonly anglicized as Petrarch, was a scholar and poet of early Renaissance Italy, and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch’s rediscovery of Cicero’s letters is often credited with initiating the Italian Renaissance and the founding of Renaissance humanism. | A.M. Juster: “This translation comes from my complete translation of Petrarch’s Canzoniere due out next year from W.W. Norton, in which I closely match the exact rhymes, meter, and line lengths of all 366 poems, and try to do so in clearer, more colloquial language than has usually been the case in the past. This poem, part of angry three-poem sequence against papal corruption, shows the more political side of the poet; it was banned by the Vatican for more than a century.” (web)

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