Girolama Corsi, 1494 The French Invasion
The cock of Gaul comes strutting into the Tuscan yard
Pecks up the corn and sends the hens aflutter
Marzocco hides and cowers, lets him pass! Was it too hard
To roar defiance even in a mutter?
But there’s another lion, winged, whose aid might be implored
Who might stretch out his claw to pluck a feather
One flicker of his brows reminds us poultry can be gored
Just think what two such beasts could do together!
Unless you make a stand, Marzocco, all will change and fall
Our language, clothes, and customs, he’ll detach
Roar out, and take position proudly on the wall
Protect the treasure he will try to snatch
This year fight like two lions, vent your wrath upon the Gaul
Before the rooster’s basilisks can hatch!
(Corsi was a Florentine living in Venice, this poem is of course suggesting an alliance between Florence and Venice against France. Marzocco is the lion of Florence, and Venice is the winged lion of St Mark.)
Camilla Scarampa 1498 Wretched Italy
Miserable Italy! Threats are thundering
Down from heaven. Your antique glory
Is needed now, or tragic blundering
Will mark the end of your ancient story.
Barbarians beat at the hallowed gate
One leaves, but another fast succeeds,
Dogs nip at your vitals, fight, don’t wait,
Or your memory will be lost to the weeds.
Come, if you want to see pure misery
Hold up a mirror to this sad play
Behold our wretchedness with me
Or disbelieve and turn away
You’ll see the wreck of Italy.
God, let me die before that day.
(Scarampa was Milanese. And there had been four whole years of it already.)
The originals of these, along with literal translations, are from Virginia Cox’s Lyric Poetry By Women of the Italian Renaissance 2013, Johns Hopkins. These are not literal but poetic translations, but this is what these women were saying about the political moments they were living through. It goes without saying that nobody listened.