The originals in the Saint’s hand-writing are preserved by the Fathers of the Oratory in Rome, Santa Maria in Vallicella, commonly called the Chiesa Nuova.

Translations to sonnets I and II are by Fr Henry Ignatius Dudley Ryder, of the Birmingham Oratory. It is doubtful whether sonnet III was written by St. Philip.

From "The Life of St. Philip Neri, Apostle of Rome" by Alfonso Capecelatro, translated by Thomas Alder Pope (London 1882), volume I, page 75:

"His biographers tell us that Philip wrote verse, both Latin and Italian, and that in Italian he was a skilful and ready improvisatore. Negri speaks of his stanzas, madrigals, and sonnets; and Crescimbeni, in his notes on the history of Italian poetry, says: "Philip was perhaps the first who, after the reform in our poetry effected by Bembo and other distinguished men, treated religion with that fine poetic taste with which Petrarch treated the philosophy of Plato. Philip flourished as a poet about 1540; and then he forsook literature and gave himself wholly to God, and flourished far more in holiness, until his death. But though he no longer wrote poetry, he did not set it altogether aside. He well knew its great uses when guided by a christian spirit, and therefore he made a great point of it in his Congregation. He read poetry himself, and ordered that it should be always read and used by his followers in the way described in our previous notes." [Crescimbeni, vol. x book iv. chap. xv.] Crescimbeni was not a very great critic, but he is a competent witness to the judgment passed on Philip by his contemporaries. Philip's verses belong probably to the period of his youth, and were the first utterances of that divine love which was taking sole possession of his heart. I do not think, however, that they were written in S. Germano; I am inclined to place them in the earlier years of his life in Rome, years marked by his great fervour in religion, and also by his serious application to study. It is possible that when he found himself charged, as we shall see, with the education of two boys, he wrote verses for them in which the love of God took the place of the love which was the common theme of poets. It is a great loss to us that Philip, towards the close of his life, burned all his writings; only three sonnets remain to us, [which are given below]. Were we to form our judgment of Philip as a poet from these alone, which should not rank him very high, though the two first have considerable merit. The third, which many say is not really his, is strikingly inferior to the others. Its style belongs to a much later period; and if it were really written by the saint, we should be inclined to assign it to the close of his life."


Se l’anima ha da Dio l’esser perfetto
Sendo, com’è, creata in un’ istante,
E non con mezzo di cagion cotante,
Como vincer la dee mortal’ oggetto?

Là vè speme, desio, gaudio, e dispetto,
La fanno tanto da se stessa errante,
Si che non veggia (e l’ha pur sempre innante)
Chi bear la potria sol con l’aspetto.

Come ponno le parti esser rubelle
Alle parto miglior, nè consentire,
Se questa servir dee, comandar quelle?

Qual prizion la ritien, ch’indi partire
Non possa, e al fin col piè calcar le stelle,
E viver sempre in Dio, e a se morire?

The soul derives from God her being high,
In one keen instant out of nothing brought,
Not painfully through second causes wrought;
How should she, then, submit to things that die?

To hope, desire, to joy, to enmity;
To her confusion by these guides mistaught,
Of One confronting her she knoweth naught,
One glimpse of Whom would lift her to the sky.

How should the baser nature dare rebel
Against the higher, nor, as meet, consent
To do its bidding, but essay to quell?

Why prison bars the aspiring soul prevent
From leaving earth, above the stars to dwell,
To die to self, to live to God, intent.


Amo, e non posso non amarvi quando
Resto cotanto vinto dal desìo
Che’l mio nel vostro, e’l vostro amor nel mio
Anzi ch’io in voi, voi in me c’andiam cangiando.

E tempo ben saria veder il quando
Cotal ch’io esca d’esto carcer rio
Di così folle, e così cieco obblìo
Dov’io mi truovo, e di me stesso in bando

Ride la terra, e ’l cielo, e l’ora, e i rami,
Stan queti i venti, e son tranquille l’onde,
E ’l sol mai sì lucente non apparse.

Cantar gli augei: chi dunqu’è che non ami
E non gioisca? Io sol, che non risponde
La gioja alle mie forze inferme e scarse.

I love, and loving must love ceaselessly,
So whole a conquest in me love hath won;
My love to Thee, Thy love to me doth run,
In Thee I live, and Thou dost live in me.

Surely the day is nigh when I may flee
From this dark gaol, for ever to have done
With vanity and blind oblivion,
Where, exiled from myself, I used to be.

Earth laughs and sky, green branches and soft air,
The winds are quiet, and the water still,
No sun before has shed so bright a day;

The gay birds sing, love's joy is everywhere;
My heart alone has no responsive thrill,
My powers flag and shrink from joy away.


Chi non v’ha, Bernardino, amato ed ama
Altro non ami, e se pur vuole amare
Ami ’l mal, non il bene, e’l bene amare
Lasci a chi non il mal, ma ’l ben sol ama.

Perchè tutto quel ben, che di buon s’ama,
E si puote, e a ragion si deve amare
È tutto in voi; dunqu’ io voi solo amare
Deggio, non amand’io ’l mal che non s’ama.

Così spero mercè di tal amore
Quel frutto accorre, amato da chi ama,
Che quant’io v’amo, e voi m’abbiate a amare.

Anzi, s’è ver, com’ è ver, che chi ama,
Si trasformi in l’amato, il nostro amare
Voi l’amante farà, ma quel che s’ama.

Bacci's Life of St. Philip, Contents Page