This is my translation of yesterday's post. The lines that are bolded are the ones that I'm not too sure about. The letters at the end of each line are the original rhyme scheme.
Edit: I have updated my translation after working with a professor of medieval Italian poetry to correct the sections I was unsure of before. Though I would still love any and all feedback if you happen to be familiar with Cavalcanti!
My terrible new misfortune A
Has in my heart undone B
every sweet thought I had of love. B
Having already undone so much of my life, C
the noble, lovely lady of mine D
she has left my soul destroyed C
such that my eye no longer sees her. D
Such has this erased my will, D
That I no longer comprehend B
What in her I found of worth. B
A subtle thought kills me, E
That seems to say that I may never again see her: D
Like a desperate and fearsome storm, E
That destroys and pains and burns and embitters. D
I cannot find nor rescuer D
nor mercy from that lord B
who plays with my sad fortune. B
Full of anguish, in place of fear F
The hurtful spirit of the heart lies still G
unaided by an apathetic Fortune F
who has turned me over to Death G
And the Hope which has failed me, G
in the time it spent with me H
wonderful hours have wasted away. H
Fearful crazed words of mine, I
Go about there wherever you wish; J
But always calling out sighing I
and shamefully the name of my lady. J
I however remain in such a state J
That looking outside, H
I see Death beneath my door. H
As we've seen in Cavalcanti's other poem, Donna me prega, Cavalcanti sees love in a rather negative light. La Forte e Nova Mia Disaventura (My Terrible New Misfortune) continues with this line of thought, and tells us what happens, or rather what love does to us when our beloved leaves us. From the beginning, insinuating that love is a misfortune, this poem seems to warn us away from love. But beyond this warning, the poem disparages love. Cavalcanti disparages that which has disparaged him.
The woman is important, of course, but only insofar as her absence causes Cavalcanti anguish. More vivid as characters are the concepts of Fortune, which plays with the hearts of lovers like toys, and Death, that waits for Fortune to finish its cruel games. The language of the poem reinforces the idea that there really is a personified Fortune: "I cannot see who that lord [Fortune], takes pity upon, but who rather doles out pain on whim." Or rather that no one escapes from the caprices of luck.
Hope appears as a minor character, but as a traitorous character that has delivered Cavalcanti into the hands of Fortune. In the part of the poem that I view as central it speaks of "the hurt that Fortune refuses to cure". As though he is suffering from a lethal disease, he is brought to Death's door. At that point, he has lost all Hope, which has effectively betrayed him. It says that Hope "in the time it spent with me, wonderful hours have wasted away." Hope was effectively complicit in the deadly joke Fortune has played on Cavalcanti: it has caused him to waste away precious hours, hours wasted that could have been better spent avoiding the coming emotional storm.
After all, pleasurable or not, time is really all we have in life. We must disparage that which disparages our time, which is just another way of saying our essential life force, or our life in and of itself. Who disparages our time in the end disparages us as people. In the end, My Terrible New Misfortune is Cavalcanti's attack on love for what he sees as the ultimate disparagement of his life. Frank Herbert reflects this sentiment in his book Dune: "Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy." Hope and Fortune, as Cavalcanti sees it, have conspired to rob his life and turn him over to Death.
The strong, particular language is critical here for constructing the sense of a lethal betrayal. Any good thought he may have, as it says in the first stanza, has been undone by his misfortune. His thoughts don't just hurt, they kill him. In one of the few metaphors in the poem, Cavalcanti compares love to a storm that "That destroys and pains and burns and embitters." These are the words of someone who feels beyond their capacity to understand, internalize, and continue with their life. To continue with the analysis, if Fortune has conspired to consign Cavalcanti to Death like a dangerous storm, then Cavalcanti's strong damning of love tells us that he still feels trapped at sea. He has survived the storm, but cannot see firm land in any direction and is unsure of how to continue his life, or in what direction to sail. This is why, "looking outside, I see Death beneath my door."
Who knows, but perhaps after having found a safe port to repose in for a while, Cavalcanti would have a different opinion on love. In the moment of our greatest victories, we feel what seems like unimaginable euforia; our nightmares always seem like the worst we've ever had, with no chance of escape. Cavalcanti surely captures in this poem a universal emotion: that of a man that feels misspent and discarded, who in the depth of their anguish must try to make sense of it all.
...sees much and knows much