The Stigmata according to Vittoria Colonna

This is the second of two poems about St Francis by Vittoria Colonna, and my translation. 

Francesco, in cui sì come in umil cera
Con sigillo d’amor sì vive impresse
Le sue piaghe Iesù, che sol t’elesse
A mostrarne di sé l’imagin vera,

Quanto ti strinse ed a te quanto intera
Die’ la sua forma e le virtuti istesse,
Onde fra noi per la sua sposa cresse
Il tempio e ‘l seggio e l’alma insegna altera.  

 Povertade, umil vita e l’altre tante
Grazie l’alzaro al più sublime stato,
Quanto or per suoi contrari è bassa e vile;  

 L’amasti in terra, or prega in ciel, beato
Spirto, ch’ella ritorni omai pura gentile
Ai pensieri, ai desiri, a l’opre sante.  

  • Vittoria Colonna


Jesus presses wax to the living flesh
Makes his wounds a seal of love. All is heat.
Marks on Francis a true image; and fresh
with love, Francis celebrates, replete.

When he gripped you and gave to you his fire,
and virtue itself, all of you was made whole.
Now among us as his bride inspire
Time and place to prepare the soul.  

 Poverty, humble life, and their friends
Raise grace to the most sublime state,
All low and vile are brought to their ends.   

 You loved him on earth, now in heaven ask,
Blessed Spirit, that you may return straight
To your thoughts, desires, holy tasks.

  •   Translation Ted Witham 2017


The Stigmata; painted on a clasp, The Met

The Stigmata – painted on a clasp 1300-50, The Met. 



St Francis according to Vittoria Colonna

Something a little different this post: Vittoria Colonna’s poem on St Francis, and my attempt at translation.

Dietro al divino tuo gran capitano
Seguendo l’orma bella, ardito estrastì
Fra perigliose insidie, aspri costrastì
Con l’arme sol dell’umilitade in mano.

Mentre il mondo sprezzando e nude e piano
Solo dalla tua croce ricco audastì
Per deserti selvaggi, a moi mostrastì
Quanto arda il divin raggio un cor umano,

Divo Francesco, a coi l’alto Signore
Nel cor l’istoria di sua man dispènse
Del divin suo ver moi sì, ch’apparver fore
Le piaghe, ond’ei la morte e ‘l mondo vinse.

  • Vittoria Colonna (1492-1547)

Straight to God, the Captain, Chief resister he,
You track his lovely steps; direct you
Past pitfalls of peril: your mystery
That humility alone protect you.

The world disdains you, both naked and gentle,
Only from your rich cross comes the daring
Across wild deserts. God’s fundamental
Span can reach you, soothe with fervent caring.

Godly Francis, in your heart Most High shares
the present history of God’s dispensing hand:
God appears in Christ to set loose all snares:
Against him world and death can now not stand.

  • Translation: Ted Witham 

Vittoria Colonna sketched by Michelangelo



Sonnets in Print

My book, Sonnets on Sunday, a print version of the sonnets on this web-site, will be out in a few weeks. I’ve finally organised an ISBN for the book, 978-0-9925536-0-9, and uploaded the cover for Books in Print. Geographe Bay never looked so good. Near the end of the journey!

The National Library will complete the Catalogue in Print data, and a friend will write a back cover blurb. Then the digital ‘galley’ will go to the Environmental Printing Company for printing. Near the end of the journey!

Cover image

The Spirit of Old Age

Our hearing goes as years grow old and God
speaks to our hearts in bracing ways and still
God reaches out like fire to lightning rod
to defibrillate deaf hearts, re-set will.

The spoken Word is void and hearing’s sense
has lost its power to move and renovate.
In old age the calm centre flares intense
In inner fire comes Spirit advocate.

The Word has become a perilous false guide
in querulous senility sounds blurred,
trust God not the ear, and be satisfied
when experience matches the remembered Word!

Persist in the tension of paradox,
the Word can appraise the true orthodox.

  • Pentecost 2016