Sonnet from Domenico Bertini, of Florence
[c.12 November 1777]
A Sua Eccellenza il Signor Washinton
Generale delle Colonie Americane
Patria a Me premio? No; non fui vénale,
Allor che Strinsi in tuo favor la Spada,
E Se avverrà, che in qualche incontro Io cada,
Cadrò, ma il cader mio Sarà immortale.
In Te libero nacqui, or che t’assale
D’Estere Genti una venal Masnada,
Sangue, Vita, Sostanze, il tutto vada,
Te Salva, L’Esser mio pongo in non cale.
E vedrà con Stupor L’Inclita Roma,
Che San nascere i Fabii ancor tra Noi,
Di Quercia Trionfal cinti la Chioma.
Valor, Fede, Costanza i Figli tuoi
Mostrano, non temer, non Sarai doma,
Se uniti in tua difesa hai tanti Eroi.
Domenico Bertini di Firenza
ADS (in Italian), DLC:GW; translation, DLC:GW. The sonnet and translation both are undated. GW docketed the translation “Letter & Sonnet from Dominec Bertini, 12th Novr 1777.”
Bertini enclosed this sonnet in a letter to James Lovell written in Italian at Florence, Italy, on 12 Nov., and Lovell apparently forwarded both the sonnet and letter to GW. Bertini’s letter includes the notation in another hand: “Mr Lovel presents his Compliments & this amusement.” The translation of the letter in DLC:GW reads: “True Heroes have in all Ages excited Admiration. Genl Washington holds with Justice one of the most distinguished Ranks in that illustrious Assembly. The Panegyrick of that great Man remains yet unfinished, but I hope, that with the Blessing of Heaven, it will be one day completed, and that he will not have cause to Envy the most renowned Champions, whose Names are recorded in History. It grieves me very much, that my advanced Age of Eighty Years, forbids me hoping Ever to see such a Prodigy, as this which the matchless Deeds of that great Philosopher and Warrior now operate, I mean to See the fire of Poetry ever rekindled in my aged Breast, tho’ warmed with the piercing rays of the numberless Virtues of a Washington, I have dared to testify him by the inclosed Rhymes the respect & Veneration I bear to his Person & Character. Altho’ I am unknown to You as well as to him, may I beg, sir, you will transmit the Genl that small acknowledgment of my profound respect, and if I did not fear to be thought too bold I would beseech you to request of him to send me his Picture, that I might place it among those of his fellow great Men—Be pleased, Honble sir, to forgive the Liberty I take, and to be persuaded that it is with the greatest sincerity that I have the honor to subscribe myself Your most obedt hu. servt.”
The loose translation of the sonnet, in DLC:GW, reads: “General Washington Commander in Chief of The Army of The United Colonies of America (Sonnet) What! my country offers me a reward! No, They never were mercenary motives that have induced me to take up arms in her defence! If ever I happen to fall in a luckless encounter, my fall shall be immortal. O America! In Thee I was born free; and now that a mercenary host of foreigners invades thy Land, I do not hesitate to sacrifice my Life, my Blood, and Every Thing I hold most dear, to defend thee. Illustrious Rome shall see with wonder, that Fabiuses can yet be born among us, worthy to be adorned with wreaths of the Triumphal Oak. Fear not, my Country, thou shalt not be Conquered whilst Valour, Prudence, & Constancy are the Virtues of thy Sons, and Especially as long as so many Heroes shall unite in thy defence. In acknowledgmt of infinite respect & veneration Dominick Bertini of Florence.”