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
Là vè speme, desio, gaudio, e dispetto,
Come ponno le parti esser rubelle
Qual prizion la ritien, ch’indi partire
|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;
How should the baser nature dare rebel
Why prison bars the aspiring soul prevent
Amo, e non posso non amarvi quando
E tempo ben saria veder il quando
Ride la terra, e ’l cielo, e l’ora, e i rami,
Cantar gli augei: chi dunqu’è che non ami
|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
Earth laughs and sky, green branches and soft air,
The gay birds sing, love's joy is everywhere;
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