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Petrarch: Return, O heaven-born Peace!


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Italian writers on war and militarism

Petrarch: Wealth and power at a bloody rate is wicked, better bread and water eat with peace


From To the Princes of Italy
An Exhortation to Peace
Translated by Barbarina Brand, Lady Dacre

O my own Italy! though words are vain
The mortal wounds to close,
Unnumbered, that thy beauteous bosom stain,
Yet may it soothe my pain
To sigh forth Tiber’s woes,
And Arno’s wrongs, as on Po’s saddened shore
Sorrowing I wander, and my numbers pour.
Ruler of heaven! By the all-pitying love
That could thy Godhead move
To dwell a lowly sojourner on earth,
Turn, Lord! on this thy chosen land thine eye:
See, God of Charity!
From what light cause this cruel war has birth;
And the hard hearts by savage discord steeled,
Thou, Father! from on high,
Touch by my humble voice, that stubborn wrath may yield!


From broken fortunes and from humble toil
The hard-earned dole to wring,
While from afar ye bring
Dealers in blood, bartering their souls for hire?
In truth’s great cause I sing,
Nor hatred nor disdain my earnest lay inspire.


My song! with courtesy, and numbers sooth,
Thy daring reasons grace;
For thou the mighty, in their pride of place,
Must woo to gentle ruth,
Whose haughty will long evil customs nurse,
Ever to truth averse!
Thee better fortunes wait,
Among the virtues few, the truly great!
Tell them – but who shall bid my terrors cease?
Peace! Peace! on thee I call! Return, O heaven-born Peace!


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