Monteverdi's Fourth Book of Madrigals
English Translations 
The Nymph’s Lament


The god Phoebus had still to light

The great fires of the dawn

When the nymph left her dwelling.


Her face a pale temple in its ruins of grief;

Her cries – a heart, rending.


Hither and thither she went,

Stumbling through flowers,

Grieving the love she had lost:


Hear me, O Love, she begged the heavens,

  stock still now, rooted to the spot –

What happened to that traitor’s vow,

‘Togetherness and trust’?


I just want him back,

But as he was before.

If you cannot  – then kill me;

I cannot bear this agony.


No more will I listen to his sighs,

Unless we are separated by a thousand seas –

No! No longer will I martyr myself for this.


I am destroying myself because of him,

And the worse it is, the more gorged,

The more satisfied he seems.

If I were to flee from him,

Perhaps then he might come begging?


That woman’s eyebrows

May be arched more perfectly than mine,

But sealed within my breast, O Love,

Lives a faithfulness still fairer.


And that woman’s mouth will never open

To give such kisses as I can give!

(Hush! Say nothing  – you know only too well!)


With these cries she cast

Her anguish to the heavens.

And so it is that in the heart of every lover

Burns, side-by-side, love’s flame and ice.

Other Translations

Cruda Amarilli          (Book 5)

Oh Mirtillo                 (Book 5)

Che dar più vi poss'io  (Book 5)

Lamento della ninfa   (Book 8)

Sovra Tenere Erbette  (Book 3)


  Compose a madrigal