From An Anthology of Italian Poems 13th-19th Century selected and translated by Lorna de’ Lucchi, Alfred A. Knopf, New York; 1922; pp. 2-3, 347.
[For purists, the Italian text of the poems follows the English translation.]
SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, 1182-1226
Notes and translation by Lorna de’ Lucchi
SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, son of Pietro Bernardone, a merchant of Assisi. In youth he devoted himself to the pursuit of pleasure, but in 1202, after distinguishing himself in the war against Perugia, he was taken prisoner and, during an illness contracted shortly after his release, is said to have beheld a vision warning him to “take up arms for Christ.” Thereupon he gave his possessions to the poor and, wedding “holy poverty,” wandered over the countryside preaching the gospel of Christ. He founded the Order of the Franciscans, whose ideal was a life of service as distinguished from one of contemplation; his followers took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Between 1222 and 1226 he wrote in Latin the Laudes Creatoris, of which an autograph fragment is preserved in Assisi. the Laudes Creaturarum is probably a contemporary translation from the Latin in rhymed prose rather than in verse. Saint Francis died in 1226, and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX. in 1228; he was a mystic, poet, and lover of nature; his compelling personal charm contributed towards the incalculable spiritual influence he exercised over the Europe of his day.
SAN FRANCESCO D’ ASSISI, 1182-1226
FOR Thee, O high and mighty, my good Lord,
Praise, glory, honour, blessing be outpoured,
Since only these do well become Thy fame;
In worthiness no wight may say Thy name.
Be praised, Lord, through Thy creatures one by one,
But chiefly through messer and brother Sun
Who lighteth up the day for us, and he
Is beautiful and passing bright to see
And doth Thee manifest, almighty Lord.
Praised be through sister Moon and Stars that shine
Up in the skies so clear and sweet and fine.
Thy praise through brother Wind and Air and Cloud,
Fair Time and every other be allowed
With whom Thou dost Thy creatures all sustain.
Praised be through sister Water, Lord, again,
So useful, costly, chaste, and humbly dight.
Praised be through brother Fire, who doth alight
The darkness and is fair and gay and free.
Praised, Lord, through sister Earth, our mother, be,
Who feedeth and doth offer life unto
All kinds of fruits, grass, flowers of every hue.
Praised be through who forgive for love of Thee
And who sustain grief and infirmity.
Blest be who peacefully themselves do bear,
For they, O Lord, Thy crown will surely wear.
Praised be, O Lord, through sister Bodily-Death
From whom no living wight may ever flee.
Woe unto them who draw their latest breath
In mortal sin! Blest who Thy holy will
Obey, no second death can bring them ill.
O Lord, my praises, blessings, thanks to Thee,
And let me serve Thee with humility.
FRANCESCO D’ ASSISI, 1182-1226
ALTISSIMU omnipotente, bon signore,
tue so le laude, la gloria e l’ onore et onne benedictione:
ad te solu, altissimu, se confanno,
et nullu homo ene dignu te mentovare.
Laudatu si’, mi signore, cum tucte le tue creature,
spetialmente messor lu frate sole,
lo quale lu jorno allumeni per nui;
et ello è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore:
de te, altissimu, porta significatione.
Laudatu si’, mi signore, per sora luna e le stelle;
in celu l’ ài formate clarite et pretiose et belle.
Laudatu si’, mi signore, per frate ventu,
e per aëre et nubilo e sereno et onne tempu,
per le quale a le tue creature dai sustentamentu.
Laudatu si’, mi signore, per sor acqua,
la quale è molto utile e humele e pretïosa e casta.
Laudatu si’, mi signore, per frate focu,
per lu quale n’ allumeni la nocte,
ed ellu è bellu e jocondu e robustoso e forte.
Laudatu si’, mi signore, per sora nostra matre terra,
la quale ne sustenta e guverna,
e produce diversi fructi e colorati flori et herba.
Laudatu si’, mi signore, per quilli che perdonano per lo tuo amore,
e sostengo infirmitate e tribulatione:
beati quilli ke le sosteranno in pace,
ka da te, altissimu, siranno incoronati.
Laudatu si’, mi signore, per nostra sora morte corporale,
de la quale nullu homo vivente po skampare:
guai a quilli ke morrano in peccato mortale;
beati quilli ke se trovarà ne le tue sanctissime voluntati,
ka la morte secunda nol farrà male.
Laudatu e benedicite lu mi signore et rengratiate
et serviateli cum grande humiltate.
[In Italy from Dante to Tasso by H. B. Cotterill, p. 137-8: “The collection of affectingly naïve and beautiful stories (including the ‘Sermon to the Birds,’ ‘Brother Wolf,’ ‘True Happiness,’ etc.) known as the Fioretti di San Francesco (The Little Flowers of St. Francis) is an early Trecento translation, in very simple and admirable Tuscan prose of a Latin original probably composed by a certain Frate Ugolino, who seems to have lived some 30 years after the death of the Saint, during the pontificate of Alexander IV (c. 1255). The graceful ease with which the language moves offers as striking a contrast to the prose of Dante as the prose of Addison offers to that of Milton, and in this respect (though in no other!) the Fioretti precludes the Decameron and Sacchetti’s Novelle.]