Mary Stuart

Sonnet to Elizabeth I, in Italian and French

Contributor: Professor Rosalind Smith

Date: 1568

Material: MSS

Source: British Library. Cotton Collection. Caligula BV fol. 316.

Permissions: © The British Library Board. All Rights Reserved. Cotton Collection, Caligula BV fol. 316.

Images Italian [verso] Italian Translation French [recto] French Translation





Il pensier che mi nuoce insieme e giova

Amaro e dolce al mio cor cangia spesso

E fra tema e speranza lo tien’ si oppresso

Che la quiette pace unque no[n] troua


Pero’, se questa carta à uoi rinuoua

Il bel disio di uederui in me impresso

Cio fa il grand’ affauno ch’m ‘se stesso

Ha, non puotendo homai da se far proua


Ho ueduto talbor uicino al porto

Rispinger naue in mar contrario uento

E nel maggior’ seren’ turbar si il Cielo


Cosi sorella chara temo e pauento

Non gia per uoi, ma quante uolte à torto

Rompe fortuna un ben’ ordito uello?



The thought which at once harms and helps me

Often changing my heart from bitter to sweet

And holds it so oppressed between fear and hope,

That still peace is nowhere found.


However if this page [addressed] to you renews

In me the good desire to see you

It will show you the deep concern that I myself

Have, that can never show itself


At times I have seen, nearing the port

A ship pushed back by contrary winds

And the most serene heaven change


So, dear sister I fear and am frightened

Not for you, but how many times, unjustly,

Does fortune ruin the best laid plans?



Vng seul penser qui me profficte et nuit

Amer et doulx change en mon cueur sans cesse

Entre le doubte et l’espoir il m’oppresse

Tant que la paix et le repos me fuit


Donc, chere soeur, si ceste carte suit

L’affection de uous ueoir qui me presse;

C’est que ie uiz en peine et en tristesse

Si promptement l’effect ne s’en ensuit


Jay ueu la nef relascher par contraincte

En haulte mer, proche d’entrer au port,

Et le serain se conuertir en trouble


Ainsi ie suis en soucy et en craincte

Non pas de uous, mais quantes fois à tort

Fortune rompt voille et cordage double ?



A single thought, that fortifies and is hurtful to me,

Bitter and sweet, changes ceaselessly in my heart,

Between doubt and hope, it oppresses me,

So much so that peace and rest fly from me.


So, dear sister, if this document stresses,

Through our mutual affection, my pressing desire to see you,

It is that I live in pain and distress

The result of which ensues so swiftly.


I have seen a ship disabled

On the high seas, near the harbour entrance,

And calm transform into chaos.


Thus, I am anxious and fearful

Not of you, but how many times wrongly,

Fortune shreds the sail and snaps the hawser.