FLORENTINE SONNETS

 

FRANCIS PETTITT

 

 


 

FLORENTIA

 

This city's at the soul of irises

within the inner calyx of my heart,

aspiration of human indices,

the great spirit's indissoluble part.

 

My life is measured in your colonnades,

transfigured by your maestas and domes,

immured within your dusky palace shades,

wetted by full-breasted venusian foams.

 

This love's consummated within your walls,

clear-burnished by deep wine and olive sun,

fed by youthful frescoes and market stalls,

reunited for always into one.

 

New birth, your name is ever on my lips

kissed in light, caressed by sweet finger tips.

 


 

COLLE DE' MOCCOLI

 

This dawn I touch you in a fresher light,

a half-created universe of song,

as cypresses emerge into my sight

from unfurled mists like legionaries' throng.

 

Before I'd always seen you in parched dreams

of shrivelled leaves below unmercied rays

and dry beds and blanched flowers and white beams

and quite airless, long-saddened, yearning days.

 

Now, in summer's prelude your skin is soft,

expectant in tomorrow's blossomed shoots,

in scent-unfolding trees, in birds aloft,

in lucid painting of awakened roots.

 

This is a time of life to rise anew

and keep you in these arms, my love so true.

 



 

CEPHALUS AND PROCRIS (Piero di Cosimo)

 

Dark-curled, sharp-eared, goat-hoofed, he touches her;

red drape unloosed from the small-breasted shape

laid out on flowered turf without a stir,

abandoned auburn locks upon silk nape.

 

His curious eyes caress a deathly face,

the wound upon her throat where blood still streams,

those golden-sandalled feet, that skein of lace,

limp hands and unseen eyes and broken dreams.

 

And at their side a hound sits passively:

beyond, an estuary with diving gulls

and further dogs upon the shore, and lee-

wards ships set sail to port with laden hulls.

 

For something's happened which I cannot know

except she's gone and tears begin to flow.

 


 


TOBIAS AND THE ANGEL (Verocchio)

 

On rock-strewn path the stranger takes your arm,

a pair well-dressed: your damask reds and blues,

his silken white, embroidered gold, cool charm,

bright ultramarine wings and neat-laced shoes.

 

The little fish, distracted by such light,

that's carried on a string by that young thigh

seems almost lost, yet he's your father's sight,

hard journey's end, bright grail, the here and why.

 

A lap-dog trails swift feet as towers pass

and rivered vales merge with fluorescent clouds

while leaves of hope flower amid the grass

and life dispels dark thoughts of cobwebbed shrouds.

 

Such wonder shines in your expectant face,

such comfort in the angel's healing grace.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A MIRACLE OF SAINT ZENOBIUS (Domenico Veneziano)

 

Disconsolate, she stares, mouth gaping-wide -

her son crushed by a city oxen cart -

yet now the bishop saint is at her side

and prays for life to move his little heart.

 

Road-accident in quattrocento-style:

the narrow street and buildings are still there,

the wooden eave, the terracotta tile,

the sumptuous trader and the poorest Clare.

 

For skies are still clear blue and church bells sound,

(though Vespa fumes replace the oxen’s dung,

misericordias screech and cars burn round)

and olive hills retain a city's lung.

 

And best of all enduring faith's still there,

imparting life to death, hope to despair.

 



 

THE BIRTH OF VENUS (Botticelli)

 

The zephyrs blow: she rises from her shell

while flowered maidens wait with cloaks unfurled.

Within her eyes a thousand heavens dwell,

between her thighs the heart of all the world.

 

It is a gentle sea and winds drop sprays

of leaves on little lapping wavelet crests

and buds and reeds bend to love-circling days

as slender fingers cover perfect breasts.

 

Her gold-spun locks enfold like breeze-tinged foam

until long hair entwines her pubic mount;

those lovely arms entice lost lovers home

to arcane planet's mantle-hidden fount.

 

Meanwhile, the bay and olive grove awaits

to squeeze sweet juice that always satiates.

 



 

THE DEATH OF SAINT FRANCIS (Giotto)

 

He waits for sister death: they kiss his feet

and hands and grasp his arms and will not leave

the poor one. But he's in the winding sheet

already now and this they won't believe.

 

The upraised palms and eyes can't cease to grieve

and yet his look's beyond the stopped heart beat.

He does not meet their glance, there's no reprieve

from certain mystery of Her cold heat.

 

But yet the brothers shall resign and meet

inevitable things that sorrows weave

and he shall sit near his dear God and eat

as swifts and swallows feed in summer's eave.

 

The morning hymn begins 'let us now praise

the bright ecstatic wonder of His ways.'

 



 

THE LAST SUPPER (Andrea del Sarto)

 

Beyond this hall a higher table's spread

and hosts the twelve and Him who cannot die,

yet must, to give new life to earth's undead

and break the bread with one who must belie.

 

Magnificently draped: their aubergine

and acquamarine cloaks and restless feet,

as up above two windowed figures lean

half-unconcerned for those who sit and eat.

 

Meanwhile, soft music of the soul spreads round

and sings of her, my sweet-enticing spouse,

as destinies new-shape in heaven-tuned sound,

awake the heart, and passion strings arouse.

 

The cloth is bare save for soul-feeding bread;

the wine's not drunk yet Word of life is said.

 



 

THE EXPULSION FROM PARADISE (Masaccio)

 

This terrorising pain, this banishment,

this primal guilt, this end of innocence...

I hide my face, she screams, as we're both sent

beyond the flowered gate and garden fence.

 

I feel this body's nakedness on me

and she's already quite ashamed of hers;

love's ecstasy comes now no longer free

and we must seek vine leaves or tiger furs.

 

And yet it had to be; we just grew up,

for that which pleased us then just bores us now.

And, tasting fruit within a sapient cup,

the tempter's words provoked our earliest row.

 

Yet must we pass the rest of this world's life

in ravaged anguish and unceasing strife?

 


 

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