Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
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Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
 
Of Will, Power, and Duty
By Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)
 
Translated by Samuel Waddington

WHO 1 would, but cannot—what he can, should will!
  ’Tis vain to will the thing we ne’er can do;
  Therefore that man we deem the wisest, who
  Seeks not mere futile longing to fulfil:
Our pleasure, as our pain, dependeth still        5
  On knowledge of will’s power; this doth imbue
  With strength who yield to duty what is due,
  Nor reason wrest from her high domicile.
Yet what thou canst not always shouldst thou will,
  Or gratified thy wish may cost a tear,        10
  And bitter prove what seemed most sweet to view:
Last in thy heart this truth we would instil,—
  Wouldst thou to self be true, to others dear,
  Will to be able, what thou oughtst, to do.
 
Note 1. This sonnet was attributed to Leonardo da Vinci in 1584 by Lomazzo, but it has since been attributed to various other authors, and Sig. G. Uzielli, in the journal Il Buonarroti, published in Rome, has recently affirmed that it must have been written some fifty years before the date of Leonardo. If such be really the case, it would be interesting to know how the sonnet came to be attributed to the great painter. If Leonardo had been a poet it would not have been surprising that he should have been accredited with a composition that did not belong to him, but as he was not, Lomazzo must, one would imagine, have had some reason for believing that the sonnet was his work.
  But whether it was written by Leonardo or not, it is, we think, a very remarkable composition, and in this respect very different to the following mediocre sonnet by Raphael, which the latter has inscribed on one of his drawings now exhibited at the British Museum—

  
Sonnet by Raphael
  
UN pensier dolce erimembrare e godo
  Di quello assalto, ma più gravo el danno
  Del partir, ch’ io restai como quei c’ anno
  In mar perso la stella, s’ el ver odo.
Or lingua di parlar disogli el nodo
  A dir di questo inusitato inganno
  Ch’ amor mi fece per mio grave afanno,
  Ma lui più ne ringratio, e lei ne lodo.
L’ora sesta era, che l’ ocaso un sole
  Aveva fatto, e l’ altro sur se in locho
  Ati più da far fati, che parole.
Ma io restai pur vinto al mio gran focho
  Che mi tormenta, che dove lon sole
  Desiar di parlar, più riman fiocho.
  There are also two other sonnets attributed to Raphael, but they can hardly be considered worthy of his illustrious name. [back]
 
 
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