Love is Not Blind: A Renaissance Love Elegy by Cristoforo Landino

Mercury slays Argus while he is guarding Io. Peter Paul Rubens. 1636-1638.

The Italian Renaissance scholar Cristoforo Landino (1424-1498) is best known for his philosophical dialogues written in the vernacular Italian of which he was an advocate.  But, in the style of Latin love elegy—Catullus, Ovid and Propertius—he did compose a series of poems about his love affair with a woman he tenderly calls Xandra.  In the following poem entitled “Conqueritur de Amore” (Complaints about Love) he vehemently dismisses the commonly held notion that love is blind (translation is my own):

Alas, whoever believes that Love is blind is indeed deceived: Argus, the ferocious monster, didn’t have as many eyes in his head as my lover! For what shadows or what out-of-the-way places are able to secretly snatch me away in safety from her eyes? The riverbanks and the rivers overflowing their curved banks and the leaf-covered fields are my witnesses, for it is among them that, desiring to put aside my shameful, fiery passion, I have sought to complain pointlessly about the savage lashings of my mistress. For you, oh wild beasts, have often seen me wandering around among your mountains in a vain attempt to hide myself. And what have I accomplished? That cruel god, Cupid, never guides his path away from my heart. Are there no other mortal hearts for you to burn with your little torches? Or what about immortal hearts? Or do you prefer to safely relax with your fellow deities with whom you’ve made a sacred pact? You are certainly sure to tire out those bloody weapons of yours as I now stand in resistance. But your bow only holds me in its sights. Go ahead and lead forward, you three Fates, you savage spirits, your distaffs that you have imposed upon us so harshly; I just pray that there is a limit and an end to my madness. There is no limit for a grand love. But my Xandra knows what your quiver is capable of, she knows full well about adverse love. Although she might be capable of conquering fierce tigers and Sicilian giants or conquering Harshness itself, she nevertheless does not look at my wounds with dry eyes. My girl is indeed harsh, but she is not that hardhearted.

This poem is particularly indebted to Ovid for its mythological allusions to Argus and Cupid; Ovid is fond of calling the amorous god “savage boy.”  I especially like that, although the poet is trying to hide from all seeing eyes of his love, in the end he playfully acknowledges that she does have a soft spot for him and he for her.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Love is Not Blind: A Renaissance Love Elegy by Cristoforo Landino

  1. This looks fascinating – not come across Landino. I’ll look out for it, thanks for blogging about it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • He does seem to be rather obscure, especially as far as his poetry. I only saw one translation of him in English but it had awful reviews.

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    • I keep trying to comment on your blog but it keeps erasing my comment. I love your Christmas posts. There is a lovely collection of Christmas books by New Vessel Press. Each book is a collection of short stories from a different language. A Very Russian Christmas, A Very Italian Christmas, etc.

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