Giacomo Leopardis Search For A Common Life Through Poetry: a Different Nobility, A Different Love
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The revolutionary Marxism of Antonio Gramsci by Frank Rosengarten 14 editions published between and in English and held by WorldCat member libraries worldwide Gramsci's interpretation of Marxism as a comprehensive conception of the world is the essential theme of this book. The discussion is aimed at illuminating the various ways in which Gramsci applied Marxist thought to political, cultural, and social issues.
The Italian anti-Fascist press ; from the legal opposition press to the underground newspapers of World War II by Frank Rosengarten Book 14 editions published in in English and held by WorldCat member libraries worldwide. Vasco Pratolini: the development of a social novelist by Frank Rosengarten Book 12 editions published between and in English and held by WorldCat member libraries worldwide. A founding leader of the Italian Communist Party and member of the Italian Parliament, Antonio Gramsci is considered the most original political thinker in the tradition of Western Marxism.
Now in paperback and hailed by Terry Eagleton in the Guardian as definitive, this is the only complete and authoritative edition of Antonio Gramscis deeply personal and vivid prison letters. The first volume contains letters written between and and an introduction reveals Gramsci's political and personal fortunes before his imprisonment, the circumstances surrounding his arrest and trial, and Tania Schuct's pivotal role in Gramsci's life as a prisoner.
The second volume contains letters written between and and a Chronology of Gramsci's life. The writings of the young Marcel Proust : an ideological critique by Frank Rosengarten Book 4 editions published in in English and held by WorldCat member libraries worldwide. Silvio Trentin dall'interventismo alla Resistenza by Frank Rosengarten Book 4 editions published in in Italian and held by 40 WorldCat member libraries worldwide.
Letters from prison by Antonio Gramsci Book 8 editions published between and in English and held by 14 WorldCat member libraries worldwide A founding leader of the Italian Communist Party and member of the Italian Parliament, Antonio Gramsci is considered the most original political thinker in the tradition of Western Marxism. This title is the second volume of Antonio Gramsci's deeply personal and vivid prison letters. Letters from prison by Antonio Gramsci Book 8 editions published between and in English and held by 13 WorldCat member libraries worldwide A founding leader of the Italian Communist Party and member of the Italian Parliament, Antonio Gramsci is considered the most original political thinker in the tradition of Western Marxism.
This title is the first volume of Antonio Gramsci's deeply personal and vivid prison letters. The revolutionary Marxism of Antonio Gramsci by Frank Rosengarten 1 edition published in in English and held by 8 WorldCat member libraries worldwide. Through partisan eyes : my friendships, literary education, and political Encounters in Italy : with sidelights on my experiences in the United States, France, and the Soviet Union by Frank Rosengarten Book 2 editions published in in English and held by 5 WorldCat member libraries worldwide.
He had no compunctions about making this poem accessible to the reading public; on the contrary, he was eager to do so. The ultimate illusion that I thought was eternal died. It died. I know not just the hope but the desire for loved illusions is done for us. Be still forever. You have beaten enough. Nothing deserves your throbbing, nor is earth worth sighing over.
Life is only bitterness and boredom, and the world is filth. Now be calm. Despair for the last time. Death is the one thing fate gave our kind. Disdain yourself now, nature, the brute hidden power that rules to common harm, and the boundless vanity of all. Lettere Damiani , xii. Black, , Epistolario Moroncini , Volume 3, 23— Aspasia was the lifelong companion of Pericles, the great Athenian orator and statesman of the fifth century B. In her biography of Leopardi, Iris Origo cites a remark made by Fanny to the novelist Matilde Serao, who asked her whether she had ever thought of Leopardi as a potential lover.
Benucci, ed. Giacomo Leopardi, Canti Ginzburg , Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti was also well educated but had no writings to her credit, other than some very fine letters, which are pithy and expressive.
Canti (poetry collection) - Wikipedia
Lettere Ficara , — Epistolario Moroncini , Volume 4, Epistolario Moroncini , Volume 4, — Lettere Damiani , Alberti, ed. Sette anni ed. Cattaneo , Epistolario Moroncini , Volume 3, 53— The exception was a girl from Recanati named Teresa Brini. Zibaldone b , Volume 3, , n. Epistolario Brioschi and Landi , Volume 2, — Origo, The marriage was arranged by Monaldo.
Anna Leopardi, Spigolature, 11— Epistolario Moroncini , Volume 2, 6—7. Hazard, Zibaldone Flora , Volume 1, — Adelaide did not breastfeed her children. She employed a wetnurse, Maria Patrizia Rovello. Marletta, Tonelli, 48 Stacchini, Epistolario Moroncini , Volume 3, 52— Mestica, Zibaldone Flora , Volume 1, Italics in original. An English translation of this satire can be found in an anthology entitled The Greek Poets, Homer to the Present, ed. English translation in Leopardi Galassi , — Chapter Five.
On the day that the two men met, June 29, , in Florence, Leopardi was celebrating his twenty-ninth birthday. Ranieri was twenty-one. The two men were immediately drawn to each other, but, except for a few sporadic letters, were unable to follow up on their initial encounter until Ranieri returned to Florence in September of after a more than two-year absence, during which he traveled to much of western Europe with funds made available to him by his father. It turned out that, despite the political harassment he knew he would be subjected to once he and Leopardi began to live together in Naples, Ranieri went to extraordinary lengths to make this happen by securing a special audience on December 17, , with the Bourbon King of Naples, Ferdi-.
To express such views, even in the language of lyrical or satirical poetry, was viewed with alarm in the Papal States, in the Austrian-ruled Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The Piedmontese monarchy centered in Turin was almost equally repres- sive, up to the constitutional reforms of For the same political reasons, Pietro Giordani was expelled from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in November , not long after Leopardi returned to Florence.
This provides a key to under- standing the differences between two intensely engaged intellectuals and Leopardi, who, while sympathizing with his two friends in a moment of considerable ferment throughout Europe, and eager to end the centuries of oppression that had blighted Italian history, was too world-weary and even cynical about the possibility of real political change to involve himself in an ongoing effort to promote it.
Leopardi made it his aim to satirize, lament, denounce, and bewail Italian national humiliation in his literary work, but he lacked the qualities required to participate in political movements. This dif- ference between him and his two older friends will occupy our attention in chapters seven to nine. He had immense admiration for Plato and, as demonstrated by Massimo Natale, considered his style to be all the proof one needed that poetic prose and philosophical profundity were not only compatible with each other in one and the same literary text, but mutually illuminating.
He had the impres- sion that, in ancient Greece, ordinary heterosexual love was sometimes felt to be too vulgar, sensual, and trivial to warrant serious treatment in a work of literature. In , Leopardi was in far greater need for emotional and physical close- ness than he was in His experiences with women had been frustrating, his courtships fraught with uncertainty, and his sexual desire for women stymied at every turn. Moreover, Leopardi never found with any of the women he knew and admired the kind of unrestrained freedom and intimacy he appears to have had with Ranieri.
Regarding the essential nature of their relationship, the two men lived together through happy times and sad, through sickness and in health, and with such abiding commitment that no other words than passionate attach- ment can do justice to what they felt for each other. They were effectively a married couple, for whom the word sodalizio, partnership, is an apt term.
He was blond, handsome, of sturdy build and average height, and radiated a natural self-assurance. He came from a noble family, although an untitled one. He was also, like Leopardi, the first- born of ten children. All of these reasons may have been present in the minds of both men at the time of their decision to make a life together, but none of them can rise to the same level of importance as their evident pleasure in being together, the strength of their mutual commitment to each other, some- thing that Leopardi never came close to finding with any of the women he was involved with over the years.
In a letter of January 5, , he showed his mettle when he urged Ranieri not to pay any heed to people who derided him because of their intimate relationship. If people deride you because of me, it consoles me at least that they deride me because of you, since in your regard I have shown myself and will show myself to be more than a baby. While developing their own relationship they both con- tinued their lives as satellites moving in the orbit of the planets called Mad- dalena and Fanny.
Even if Ranieri was telling the truth when, decades later, in Sette anni, he said that he would never have given the poet permission to do what he, Leopardi, describes in his letters, and that he was unable to read them after they were published, 8 the fact remains that his feelings about the love they shared went far beyond the conventional limits of male friendships. To put this in somewhat different terms, in my approach to the relation- ship between Leopardi and Ranieri, my thesis is not that Leopardi was homo- sexual by reason of an inborn disposition of his psycho-sexual nature, as is often the case for boys who discover their attraction to their own sex quite early, but rather that his love and passion for a man, Antonio Ranieri, was the only emotional connection of his life in which he felt free to express the undiluted, physical, uncompromising intensity of his love for another human being; the only love relationship that was not destroyed or dissipated by the vicissitudes and shifting states of mind that marked his relations with various women throughout his life.
In this respect, when persistent tongue-wagging and not-so-subtle inuendos began to circulate about the two men, it was the occasionally depressed and disheartened Ranieri who drew strength from Leopardi, who stood unwaveringly in defense of their love for each other. There is little doubt that in , when Ranieri came to see Leopardi soon after his return to Florence, the poet had reached a personal nadir of unhappi- ness.
He was so low in funds that he was finding it difficult to pay his rent, and faced the prospect of having to return to Recanati for the rest of his life, where he would be welcomed by his family, to be sure, but also deprived of the intellectual stimulation that he had found in the Tuscan capital. His health was also suffering: chronic bronchitis, painfully irritated eyes, and intestinal problems plagued and depressed him.
He was Lazarus awaiting a benevolent spirit to bring him back to life. Florence was where he wanted to be; it was a city that, in addition to its historical and artistic treasures, was home to a group of individuals with whom he had a lot in common, the men and few women who gravitated to the review Antologia.
A chance for resurrection came to him in two guises.
Giacomo Leopardi's Search For a Common Life Through Poetry : A Different Nobility, A Different Love
Vieusseux was among them, but it was main- ly the Neapolitan historian and army general Pietro Colletta — , author of an excellent History of the Kingdom of Naples from to — published posthumously in —who offered him an at least temporary way out of penury. More than seven hundred people signed up for the book. Ranieri, as the oldest of ten siblings, could rely on support from his parents and from his nine brothers and sisters, one of whom, Enrichetta, was married to a businessman, Giuseppe Ferrigni, at whose country villa they were able to stay for prolonged periods of time in and In the next year or so they moved several times, finally settling in an apartment on Via Capodi- monte, which afforded a direct view of the bay of Naples and Mount Vesu- vius.
Once that had been cleared up, he said, he was ready to begin a new life in Naples. This was his first visit to the capital of The Kingdom of Two Sicilies, and he liked it immediately, for its air of vivacity and raucous energy. Leopardi was not an easy person to live with. He led an irregular life, converting day into evening and evening into day, which upset everyone around him.
Ranieri had such fondness for her that their relationship had already caused some people to wonder about what the two really meant to each other. At least a third of Sette anni deals with her exceptionally ardent devotion to him and to Leopardi, whose poems she had committed to memory. Paolina as well, although he did not bother to take explicit note of it. This was the crucial period that, as argued by Walter Binni and several other critics and biographers, marks a transformation in attitude that is reflected in the above-cited dialogue between Plotinus and Porphyry.
What we find here is not only a change in outlook, but concrete evidence of a new reconciliation between Leopardi and the demons that had been haunting him, a reconcilia- tion that found expression in his writing. A Loving Partnership and Consalvo This new sense of possibility, of being on the threshold of a new freedom in his intimate life if not in his outward circumstances, and the fear that he might lose it for reasons he could not control, is what gives his letters their pathos and their power.
It was humiliating for him to have to justify this request for funds by reminding his father that he had done everything humanly possible to secure employment. He was so distressed that he put aside his usual reluctance to speak of God except in a perfunctory manner.
This took him almost five months, during which Leopardi went through an emotional hell. In his first few letters, Leopardi was unsure as to whether Ranieri was receiving his mail. For a while, he asked his publisher Guglielmo Piatti and friend Giampietro Vieusseux to act as his intermediaries. On November 27, , he wrote to Ranieri 20 to tell him he was suffer- ing vicariously with him; Ranieri had let it be known that he was having serious difficulties in his personal affairs and in connection with his plan to rejoin Leopardi as soon as possible.
I embrace you as my only causa vivendi. He was particularly wor- ried about the possibility that Ranieri would resume his love affair with Maddalena Pelzet. She was performing at the time in Rome, where Ranieri had stopped off to see her and, evidently, persuade her to resume their relationship.
I want to kiss you again before dying. Kissing remains a motif of his letters right up to the end of their period of separation. The letters become shorter and shorter, consisting at times of one or two staccato lines, but even in these he found new ways of telling Antonio how much he needed him. Whether I can ever abandon you, you know very well. I send you a thousand kisses. No doubt he did look on his relationship with Ranieri as a means to his salvation, an indispensable and irreplaceable com- ponent of his spiritual as well as physical existence.
In one letter, written on April 9, , he went so far as to use the word amplesso, which usually connotes a sexual embrace, to convey what he looked forward to when they saw each other again. Yet there was nothing prudish or withdrawn in the life he led during and after his seven-year partnership with Leopardi. He was politically active, and held a seat in the first Italian national Chamber of Deputies formed in His writing also shows flashes of a lively imagina- tion and an enjoyment, or certainly a talent, for suggestive sensual descrip- tion, as seen in his novel Ginevra, an example of the kind of sometimes inflated and lurid prose that characterized the muckraking literature of the s and s.
Neither Antonio nor Paolina ever married. Paoli- na was devoted to her brother with a rare single-minded intensity. Several of her letters to him bear the mark of a sisterly affection that was absolute and unrestrained. Two of her letters in , written in the months prior to his return to Naples with Leopardi, could easily be taken for the words of a lover. The same can be said for the commitment Ranieri made to Leopardi in November He was not just spouting words, he meant what he said, and proved it in action.
Only a few of his undated letters to and from her are available in the Ranieri papers, which he willed to the National Library in Naples. In one he told her how much he wanted to attend a play she was in, but feared that if he were to be seen at the theatre, she would suffer the embarrassing consequences. Every morsel of food is like poison to me, so I have lost sleep, and a mortal languor has taken possession of my entire being. I drag myself out for absolutely necessary things, but every step costs me pain. For Leopardi, love was not only the most fundamental of human needs and the gateway to creative expression, it was also inextricably associated with death.
For him, eros and thanatos were twin children of whatever power ruled the universe. This does not mean that the philosophical content of his poetry is always a drag on its spontaneity and formal beauty. On the contrary, Leopardi would not be Leopardi without this unusual intellectual enlargement of vision that he infuses into his best work.
Neither the powerful of the earth nor the humble folk can fully grasp the kind of inseparable bond that unites eros and thanatos. But the poet looks with compassion on the humble, with contempt on the powerful, who laugh at the follies of poor people. In their ignorance, the simple and the uneducated people attain a level of awareness about love and death that remains unavail- able to those who are above them in status and position.
Leopardi is at his best when he attaches the thoughts and percep- tions he had at the time of composition to a human voice, a presence, an identity that is intrinsically engaging and persuasive. That the poem did in reality have a strongly autobiographical component has both attracted and perplexed many critical readers.
In any event, according to this version, Consalvo was between twenty and twenty-five years old when the scene depicted in the poem takes place. So the question becomes why either Leopardi of his own volition, or Ranieri, acting on his own account, substituted the present version for the original one. The two men worked together constantly in the years of their cohabitation in Naples. I would argue that the reason for the transposition is to divert potential readers from the years —, when the two men became close and shared kisses, to the years between and , suggesting that the scene of the poem took place long before they met.
A third reason for critical uncertainty about this poem is the surge of sensual, physically expressed passion that transforms Elvira—who thus far has been moved only by pity for the dying young man, of whose love for her she was aware—into a woman who kisses Consalvo on the lips, not once, as he had pleaded with her to do, but many times, as if pouring out a long- suppressed love for him, released only now as he lies dying.
And gently bringing that celestial face, that mouth so long desired, the stuff of dreams and sighs for years, to his afflicted face, pale with the pain of dying, she printed many kisses, all benign signs of deep pity, on the fevered lips of her trembling and enraptured lover. Presumably moved by compassion, Elvira nevertheless, in the heat of the moment, seems to let herself transcend pity and enter another realm, that of physical passion.
Kissing a person on the lips, even a person who is ill and close to death, unless done in a quick and ritualized manner although the cheek is usually the preferred locus of ritual kisses, not the mouth , is bound to suggest something other than pure compassion, something closer to a feeling of oneness, of mutual love between two people. But the similarities in mood and effect are remarkable. This point leads me to wonder about another parallel, not between Leo- pardi and Dante, but between the quality of the above-quoted lines from Consalvo and the relationship that had developed between Leopardi and another person, not necessarily or even mainly a woman, Fanny Targioni- Tozzetti, who is usually considered the inspiration for the poem, but a man, Antonio Ranieri.
What I am getting at here does not so much depend on claiming that Fanny was not the conscious inspiration for this poem, or on denying her contribution to the total impression that it makes on the reader, but rather hinges on less obvious, perhaps, but quite persuasive bits of evi- dence drawn from certain of the things we have already noted.
As far as I know, the only other place in his poems where passionate kisses are given is Aspasia, but those are kisses that a mother gives to her children. It is the sensuous atmosphere of Consalvo that I think owes much more to Ranieri than it does to Fanny. She was shrewd and worldly, always anxious to be the center of her social world, but also insightful and fair-minded, and able to look objectively but sympathetically at the vicissitudes of human affairs.
In this role as an inter- ested party to the relationship between Leopardi and Ranieri, she was much more the observer of a love affair than the protagonist of one. If he ever felt the kind of passion for her that has made scholars think that Fanny was the inspiration for all four poems of the Aspasia cycle, and the real person behind the fictitious figure of Elvira in Consalvo, he kept it well hidden, at least in the documents we have available. The other is that in this poem, the kisses are not given by one lover to another, but, as noted above, by a mother to her children.
I encountered your angelic form dressed in dark violet, and bent to greet you in the gleaming flesh, veiled in secret sensuality, when you, expert enticer, showered fervent, noisy kisses on the pursed lips of your children, inclining your snowy neck just so, and held them, unaware of your intentions, with your very graceful hand to your open, much desired breast. These are the games of love as played by a woman who is aware at all times of her sexual power. No sooner do we get this glance at the desired female body than the poet returns us to the vocabulary of love of earlier times, when religious ardor pervaded expressions of love by a man for a woman.
His imminent death matters less than the fact that he has the chance, in his final words spoken directly to Elvira, not to present an idealized picture of his beloved or to lament the illusory nature of love but instead to talk about what love truly means to those fortunate enough to possess it. There is no trace of abstractness, of evasiveness, of world-weary resignation but rather a forthright assertion of what love for Elvira has meant to him.
I think that what lay behind the poetically described kisses that Consalvo and Elvira give to each other were the real kisses that Leopardi spoke of and longed for in his letters to Ranieri during the five months of their separation in — Let me add a piquant touch to these remarks. In this letter, here is how he described the event:. He breathed his last in my arms while we were about to move to the country, on Wednesday June 14, at 9 p.
In this way I knew that he existed no longer. Poetry and truth both presided at the moment of death, as first described in the poem and then as it occurred in reality. Macchiaroli, ed a , Zibaldone Pacella , Volume 1, — Godbeer, Epistolario Brioschi and Landi , Volume 2, Antonio Ranieri, Sette anni, edition, Leopardi lived in Florence from June 21, to November 9, ; from June 8, to November 10, ; and from May 10, to September Canti del conte Giacomo Leopardi, Antonio Ranieri, Sette anni ed.
Ferrigni was a lawyer and a judge who, for several years, was vice president of the Senate of the Kingdom of Naples. His home was also the site of a salon frequented by the Neapolitan liberal intelligentsia. Ranieri, Sette anni ed. Damiani a , An exemplar of this edition, under the archival identification of L. In a note, XXXI n. Leopardi had expressed similar despair and anguish once before in his life, during a period of several months in the fall of when he had not received any letters from his new friend Pietro Giordani.
I feared that awful things had happened to you, things that one fears about a person who is more dear than life itself. Emphasis in the original. Antonio Ranieri c , 53— Carte Ranieri, Ba 31 5. Carte Ranieri, Ba 4 For an analysis of this crucial aspect of Consalvo, see Giovanni Mestica, — Eng- lish translation Galassi, Dante Pinsky , Antonio Ranieri a , Carteggio inedito, — It should be noted that, as evidenced in the manuscript copy of Consalvo, the composi- tion of this poem was not an easy task. The manuscript is marked by deletions and corrections from beginning to end. For a photocopy of this manuscript, see Ceragioli, — Chapter Six.
His meeting and subsequent partnership with Ranieri was the capital event of his life during this period, but it was not the only important one. His friendship with the liberal nationalists of the Antologia group was certainly among the most heartwarming experiences of his life, as we can see in what he said about them in his dedication to the edition of his Canti.
His friendship with Luigi de Sinner was another far from ordinary en- counter; it extended the range of his impact on the reading public in Europe, and gave him a trusted confidant on whom he could always rely for intellec- tual as well as emotional support. In Naples, he came to know Paolina Ranie- ri, whose warmth and loving care were essential to him through the years of his partnership with her brother. Even his health improved in Naples, allow- ing him to explore various facets of life in and around the city. His jaunts to Pompei and Herculaneum, and carriage rides along the Bay, as well as the months he spent at the villa Ferrigni, during which he composed several of the works for which he is best known, all contributed to a revival of his personal well-being and his creative energy.
He also experienced days of fear and anguish in Naples, caused by his nemesis, mother nature, which he surely blamed for two of the fearsome events that threatened the existence of everyone who lived in and around the city: several angry eruptions by Mount Vesuvius, which he could see from his home on Via Capodimonte, and an outbreak of cholera that, according to. Ranieri, frightened Leopardi even more than Vesuvius. He was fortunate to escape infection himself, but all around him people were getting sick and dying by the tens of thousands, until the epidemic finally eased off in the latter part of As far as his health was concerned, he seems to have been relatively free of symptoms until about a month before he passed away, when heart failure, and not asthma, as he thought, caused several episodes of short- ness of breath that kept him in bed much of the time.
We should remember the ending of the dialogue between Plotinus and Porphyry, which I commented on briefly in the preceding chapter. With respect to both of these themes, the poet was able to find hope where he had previously seen little but despair. He was aiming now at something larger and more complex, a simultaneously lyrical and argumentative poem that would serve as a signature expression of his creative life. In some meas- ure, he succeeded in this effort; it is far from being a perfect work. Leopardi builds his poem on a dialogue. He speaks directly to the broom plant, in apostrophes similar to those that appear in his work from the outset of his life as a poet and thinker.
In this respect, the poem is very much a manifesto of sorts, a message sent to those who can hear it and pay serious attention to it. He makes it clear to us that such a truly noble person considers all men allies from the outset and embraces all of them with true love, offering and expecting real and ready aid in the alternating dangers and concerns of our common struggle. He was loath to give exclusive encouragement to any of the incipient groups and movements that at the time, the mids, were contending for the allegiance of the Italian people.
For many Romantics, what was true was intimate and personal, and had nothing to do with abstract reason or scientific objectivity. They often exalted the power of the imagination to conjure up worlds that lay beyond the comprehension of a mind governed solely by reason and experiment. Rousseau was the tutelary god of Romanticism understood as a move- ment of thought and sensibility that sought for a way of integrating human experience with nature seen, if not always as benign, as containing within it a creative and renewing power in relation to which humanity must establish its own reason for being.
The trouble was, as Leopardi saw it, the laudable Romantic impulse to give human beings a reason to feel at one with nature had too often turned into an irrational and mystical illusion of power based on an all-too-facile optimism and misguided self-confidence. These ques- tions will occupy our attention especially in part four. Here it will have to suffice to observe that Leopardi cannot be easily fit into either one of these currents of thought and sensibility.
This sixty-five—line poem, which opens with a lovely evocation of a moonlit landscape, quickly and resolutely makes clear to the reader that the dreamlike shapes and images that accompany the moonlight are but that, shapes and images, which the sun dispels, revealing the true, illusion-free dimension of things. But mortal life, once lovely youth has gone, is never dyed by other lights or other dawns again. She remains a widow all the way. And the Gods determined that the night which hides our other times ends in the grave.
Poetry, for Leopardi, as I pointed out in my introduction, was a means with which to participate in the great philosophical debates of his age, as well as to give voice to feelings that belonged to the intimate and personal aspects of life. But whether philosophical or poetic, he was not only a pessi- mist, a naysayer, but a realist and an advocate of truth-telling about the human condition. Cowper, Blake, Burns, and Wordsworth, for example, all saw a unity of purpose linking the order of nature to the order of human life, and in so doing tried to convey the idea that the function of poetry was to give expression to this unity.
Leopardi did not share this positive attitude toward nature with his English counterparts, but he was able to see in certain natural forms of life a redeeming source of hope for human beings. One of these is the flower evoked at the beginning of the poem, where the poet looks out on the desolate slopes of Mount Vesuvius, whose terrifying and unpredictable power awaits its next chance to overwhelm the human community that still lives within range of its destructive fury.
For an instant, the reader is led to believe, by the first two lines, that the subject of the poem will be the volcano itself. This long middle section ends in a contemplative mood, as the poet compares the immortality of Nature, and the endless expanses of space and celestial bodies beyond human ken, with the finiteness and nothingness of human existence.
Both are vital to the human species as it struggles to understand the true conditions of its pilgrim- age on earth. We should note that Leopardi did not imply a less-than-respectful attitude toward his fellow humans in this poem, although the epigraph he chose for it does suggest that he feared an endless repetition of willful ignorance on their part. He did not ask of them only that they passively accept the gift of poetry and philosophy that was part of their legacy.
The sections of the poem that evoke the capacity for solidarity of human beings are thematically important. Perhaps sensing that his own life was fast approaching its end, he took pleasure in returning to an early source of poetic inspiration. I Canti di Giacomo Leopardi nelle traduzioni inglesi—saggio bibliografico e antologia delle versioni nel mondo anglosassone, ed.
Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?
Part Three. Leopardi was deeply committed to the struggle for a free, united Italy. Yet his outlook on the possibility of fundamental political change grew increas- ingly pessimistic as the years passed. Hints of this pessimism can be gleaned from letters he wrote in the early s to Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti and princess Charlotte Bonaparte.
Writing to Targioni-Tozzetti on December 5, , he said that he was sure she did not expect any exciting political news from him. My own, if it is not retrograde, is eminently stationary. The truth is that he not only did not desist from believing in the Italian national cause, he made it the subject of a mock heroic poem he wrote in Naples that revolves, comically and sarcastically, around the failed attempts of Italians to stand and fight for their independence. Where are the arms, the valor, constancy? Who hath deprived thee of thy sword?
What treachery, what skill, what labor vast, Or what o'erwhelming horde Whose fierce, invading tide, thou could'st not stem, Hath robbed thee of thy robe and diadem? From such a height how couldst thou fall so low? Will none defend thee? No son of thine? For arms, for arms, I call; Alone I'll fight for thee, alone will fall.
And from my blood, a votive offering, May flames of fire in every bosom spring! Where are thy sons? The sound of arms I hear, Of chariots, of voices, and of drums; From foreign lands it comes, For which thy children fight. Oh, hearken, hearken, Italy! I see,— Or is it but a dream? Art thou not comforted? Dost turn away Thy eyes, in horror, from the doubtful fray? Ye gods, ye gods. Oh, can it be? The youth of Italy Their hireling swords for other lands have bared!
Oh, wretched he in war who falls, Not for his native shores, His loving wife and children dear, But, fighting for another's gain, And by another's foe is slain! And you, forever glorious, Thessalian straits, Where Persia, Fate itself, could not withstand The fiery zeal of that devoted band!
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Do not the trees, the rocks, the waves, The mountains, to each passer-by, With low and plaintive voice tell The wondrous tale of those who fell, Heroes invincible who gave Their lives, their Greece to save? Then cowardly as fierce, Xerxes across the Hellespont retired, A laughing-stock to all succeeding time; And up Anthela's hill, where, e'en in death The sacred Band immortal life obtained, Simonides slow-climbing, thoughtfully, Looked forth on sea and shore and sky.
Her children, why so joyously, Ran ye, that stern and rugged pass to guard? As if unto a dance, Or to some splendid feast, Each one appeared to haste, And not grim death Death to brave; But Tartarus awaited ye, And the cold Stygian wave; Nor were your wives or children at your side, When, on that rugged shore, Without a kiss, without a tear, ye died. But not without a fearful blow To Persians dealt, and their undying shame. As at a herd of bulls a lion glares, Then, plunging in, upon the back Of this one leaps, and with his claws A passage all along his chine he tears, And fiercely drives his teeth into his sides, Such havoc Grecian wrath and valor made Amongst the Persian ranks, dismayed.
Behold each prostrate rider and his steed; Behold the chariots, and the fallen tents, A tangled mass their flight impede; And see, among the first to fly, The tyrant, pale, and in disorder wild! See, how the Grecian youths, With blood barbaric dyed, And dealing death on every side, By slow degrees by their own wounds subdued, The one upon the other fall. Farewell, Ye heroes blessed, whose names shall live, While tongue can speak, or pen your story tell! Sooner the stars, torn from their spheres, shall hiss, Extinguished in the bottom of the sea, Than the dear memory, and love of you, Shall suffer loss, or injury.
Your tomb an altar is; the mothers here Shall come, unto their little ones to show The lovely traces of your blood. Behold, Ye blessed, myself upon the ground I throw, And kiss these stones, these clods Whose fame, unto the end of time, Shall sacred be in every clime.
Oh, had I, too, been here with you, And this dear earth had moistened with my blood! But since stern Fate would not consent That I for Greece my dying eyes should close, In conflict with her foes, Still may the gracious gods accept The offering I bring, And grant to me the precious boon, Your Hymn of Praise to sing! Though all the nations now Peace gathers under her white wings, The minds of Italy will ne'er be free From the restraints of their old lethargy, Till our ill-fated land cling fast Unto the glorious memories of the Past.
Oh, lay it to thy heart, my Italy, Fit honor to thy dead to pay; For, ah, their like walk not thy streets to-day! Nor is there one whom thou canst reverence! Turn, turn, my country, and behold That noble band of heroes old, And weep, and on thyself thy anger vent, For without anger, grief is impotent: Oh, turn, and rouse thyself for shame, Blush at the thought of sires so great, Of children so degenerate! Alien in mien, in genius, and in speech, The eager guest from far Went searching through the Tuscan soil to find Where he reposed, whose verse sublime Might fitly rank with Homer's lofty rhyme; And oh!
Thanks to the brave, the generous band, Whose timely labor from our land Will this sad, shameful stain remove! A noble task is yours, And every breast with kindred zeal hath fired, That is by love of Italy inspired. May love of Italy inspire you still, Poor mother, sad and lone, To whom no pity now In any breast is shown, Now, that to golden days the evil days succeed. May pity still, ye children dear, Your hearts unite, your labors crown, And grief and anger at her cruel pain, As on her cheeks and veil the hot tears rain! But how can I, in speech or song, Your praises fitly sing, To whose mature and careful thought, The work superb, in your proud task achieved, Will fame immortal bring?
What notes of cheer can I now send to you, That may unto your ardent souls appeal, And add new fervor to your zeal? Your lofty theme will inspiration give, And its sharp thorns within your bosoms lodge. Who can describe the whirlwind and the storm Of your deep anger, and your deeper love? Who can your wonder-stricken looks portray, The lightning in your eyes that gleams?
What mortal tongue can such celestial themes In language fit describe? Away ye souls, profane, away! What tears will o'er this marble stone be shed! How can it fall? How fall your fame sublime, A victim to the envious tooth of Time? O ye, that can alleviate our woes, Sole comfort of this wretched land, Live ever, ye dear Arts divine, Amid the ruins of our fallen state, The glories of the past to celebrate! I, too, who wish to pay Due honor to our grieving mother, bring Of song my humble offering, As here I sit, and listen, where Your chisel life unto the marble gives. O thou, illustrious sire of Tuscan song, If tidings e'er of earthly things, Of her , whom thou hast placed so high, Could reach your mansions in the sky, I know, thou for thyself no joy wouldst feel, For, with thy fame compared, Renowned in every land, Our bronze and marble are as wax and sand; If thee we have forgotten, can forget, May suffering still follow suffering, And may thy race to all the world unknown, In endless sorrows weep and moan.
Thou for thyself no joy wouldst feel, But for thy native land, If the example of their sires Could in the cold and sluggish sons Renew once more the ancient fires, That they might lift their heads in pride again. Alas, with what protracted sufferings Thou seest her afflicted, that, e'en then Did seem to know no end, When thou anew didst unto Paradise ascend! Reduced so low, that, as thou seest her now, She then a happy Queen appeared. Such misery her heart doth grieve, As, seeing, thou canst not thy eyes believe. And oh, the last, most bitter blow of all, When on the ground, as she in anguish lay, It seemed, indeed, thy country's dying day!
O happy thou, whom Fate did not condemn To live amid such horrors; who Italian wives didst not behold By ruffian troops embraced; Nor cities plundered, fields laid waste By hostile spear, and foreign rage; Nor works divine of genius borne away In sad captivity, beyond the Alps, The roads encumbered with the precious prey; Nor foreign rulers' insolence and pride; Nor didst insulting voices hear, Amidst the sound of chains and whips, The sacred name of Liberty deride.
Who suffers not? From what unholy deed have they refrained? What temple, altar, have they not profaned? Why have we fallen on such evil times? Why didst thou give us birth, or why No sooner suffer us to die, O cruel Fate? We, who have seen Our wretched country so betrayed, The handmaid, slave of impious strangers made, And of her ancient virtues all bereft; Yet could no aid or comfort give. Or ray of hope, that might relieve The anguish of her soul. Alas, my blood has not been shed for thee, My country dear! Nor have I died That thou mightst live!
My heart with anger and with pity bleeds. Ah, bitter thought! Thy children fought and fell; But not for dying Italy, ah, no, But in the service of her cruel foe! Father, if this enrage thee not, How changed art thou from what thou wast on earth! On Russia's plains, so bleak and desolate, They died, the sons of Italy; Ah, well deserving of a better fate!
In cruel war with men, with beasts, The elements! In heaps they strewed the ground; Half-clad, emaciated, stained with blood, A bed of ice for their sick frames they found. Now, far from thee, and in the bloom of youth, Unknown to all, we yield our parting breath, And die for her , who caused our country's death! The northern desert and the whispering groves, Sole witnesses of their lament, As thus they passed away!
And their neglected corpses, as they lay Upon that horrid sea of snow exposed, Were by the beasts consumed; The memories of the brave and good, And of the coward and the vile, Unto the same oblivion doomed! Dear souls, though infinite your wretchedness, Rest, rest in peace! And yet what peace is yours, Who can no comfort ever know While Time endures! Rest in the depths of your unmeasured woe, O ye, her children true, Whose fate alone with hers may vie, In endless, hopeless misery!
But she rebukes you not, Ah, no, but these alone, Who forced you with her to contend; And still her bitter tears she blends with yours, In wretchedness that knows no end. Oh that some pity in the heart were born, For her, who hath all other glories won, Of one, who from this dark, profound abyss, Her weak and weary feet could guide!
Thou glorious shade, oh! Say, is the flame that kindled thee extinct? And will that myrtle never bloom again, That hath so long consoled us in our pain? Must all our garlands wither in the dust? And shall we a redeemer never see, Who may, in part, at least, resemble thee?
Are we forever lost? Is there no limit to our shame? Behold these ruins vast, These pictures, statues, temples, poems grand! Think of the glories of thy native land! If they thy soul cannot inspire or warn, Why linger here? This holy ground must not be thus defiled, And must no shelter give Unto the coward and the slave!
Far better were the silence of the grave! Italian bold, why wilt thou never cease The fathers from their tombs to summon forth? Why bring them, with this dead age to converse, That stifled is by enemies and by sloth? And why dost thou, voice of our ancestors, That hast so long been mute, Resound so loud and frequent in our ears? Why all these grand discoveries? As in a flash the fruitful pages come, What hath this wretched age deserved, That dusty cloisters have for it reserved These hidden treasures of the wise and brave?
Illustrious man, with what strange power Does Fate thy ardent zeal befriend? Or does Fate vainly with man's will contend? Without the lofty counsel of the gods, It surely could not be, that now, When we were never sunk so low, In desperate oblivion of the Past, Each moment, comes a cry renewed, From our great sires, to shake our souls, at last! Heaven still some pity shows for Italy; Some god hath still our happiness at heart: Since this, or else no other, is the hour, Italian virtue to redeem, And its old lustre once more to impart, These pleading voices from the grave we hear; Forgotten heroes rise from earth again, To see, my country, if at this late day, Thou still art pleased the coward's part to play.
And do ye cherish still, Illustrious shades, some hope of us? Have we not perished utterly? To you, perhaps, it is allowed, to read The book of destiny. I am dismayed, And have no refuge from my grief; For dark to me the future is, and all That I discern is such, as makes hope seem A fable and a dream. To your old homes A wretched crew succeed; to noble act or word, They pay no heed; for your eternal fame They know no envy, feel no blush of shame.
A filthy mob your monuments defile: To ages yet unborn, We have become a by-word and a scorn. Thou noble spirit, if no others care For our great Fathers' fame, oh, care thou still, Thou, to whom Fate hath so benignant been, That those old days appear again, When, roused from dire oblivion's tomb, Came forth, with all the treasures of their lore, Those ancient bards, divine, with whom Great Nature spake, but still behind her veil, And with her mysteries graced The holidays of Athens and of Rome.
O times, now buried in eternal sleep! Our country's ruin was not then complete; We then a life of wretched sloth disdained; Still from our native soil were borne afar, Some sparks of genius by the passing air. Thy holy ashes still were warm, Whom hostile fortune ne'er unmanned; Unto whose anger and whose grief, Hell was more grateful than thy native land. Ah, what, but hell, has Italy become? And thy sweet cords Still trembled at the touch of thy right hand, Unhappy bard of love. Alas, Italian song is still the child Of sorrow born.
And yet, less hard to bear, Consuming grief than dull vacuity! O blessed thou, whose life was one lament! Disgust and nothingness are still our doom, And by our cradle sit, and on our tomb. But thy life, then, was with the stars and sea, Liguria's hardy son, When thou, beyond the columns and the shores, Where oft, at set of sun, The waves are heard to hiss, As he into their depths has plunged, Committed to the boundless deep, Didst find again the sun's declining ray, The new-born day didst find, When it from us had passed away; Defying Nature's every obstacle, A land unknown didst win, the glorious spoils Of all thy perils, all thy toils.
And yet, when known, the world seems smaller still; And earth and ocean, and the heavenly sphere More vast unto the child, than to the sage appear. Where now are all the charming dreams Of the mysterious retreats Of dwellers unto us unknown, Or where, by day, the stars to rest have gone, Or of the couch remote of Eos bright, Or of the sun's mysterious sleep at night?
They, in an instant, vanished all; A little chart portrays this earthly ball. Lo, all things are alike; discovery But proves the way for dull vacuity. Farewell to thee, O Fancy, dear, If plain, unvarnished truth appear! Thought more and more is still estranged from thee; Thy power so mighty once, will soon be gone, And our poor, wounded hearts be left forlorn. But thou for these sweet dreams wast born, And the old sun upon thee shone, Delightful singer of the arms, and loves, That in an age far happier than our own, Men's lives with pleasing errors filled.
New hope of Italy! O towers, O caves, O ladies, cavaliers, O gardens, palaces! Amenites, At thought of which, the mind Is lost in thousand splendid reveries!
Ye lovely fables, and ye thoughts grotesque, Now banished! And what to us remains? Now that the bloom from all things is removed? Alas, the sole, the certain thought, That all except our wretchedness, is nought. Torquato, O Torquato, heaven to us The rich gift of thy genius gave, to thee Nought else but misery.
Ill-starred Torquato, whom thy song, So sweet, could not console, Nor melt the ice, to which The genial current of thy soul Was turned, by private envy, princely hate; And then, by Love abandoned, life's last dream! To thee, nought real seemed but nothingness, The world a dreary wilderness. Too late the honors came, so long deferred; And yet, to die was unto thee a gain. Who knows the evils of our mortal state, Demands but death, no garland asks, of Fate.
Return, return to us, Rise from thy silent, dreary tomb, And feast thine eyes on our distress, O thou, whose life was crowned with wretchedness! Far worse than what appeared to thee so sad And infamous, have all our lives become. Dear friend, who now would pity thee, When none save for himself hath thought or care? Who would not thy keen anguish folly call, When all things great and rare the name of folly bear? When envy, no, but worse than envy, far, Indifference pervades our rulers all? Ah, who would now, when we all think Of song so little, and so much of gain, A laurel for thy brow prepare again?
Ah, since thy day, there has appeared but one, Who has the fame of Italy redeemed: Too good for his vile age, he stands alone; One of the fierce Allobroges, Whose manly virtue was derived Direct from heavenly powers, Not from this dry, unfruitful earth of ours; Whence he alone, unarmed,— O matchless courage! First, and alone, he took the field: None followed him; all else were cowards tame, Lost to all sense of honor, or of shame. Devoured by anger and by grief, His spotless life he passed, Till from worse scenes released by death, at last. O my Victorio, this was not for thee The fitting age, or land.
Great souls congenial times and climes demand. In mere repose we live content, And vulgar mediocrity; The wise man sinks, the mob ascends, Till all at last in one dread level ends. Go on, thou great discoverer! Revive the dead, since all the living sleep! Dead tongues of ancient heroes arm anew; Till this vile age a new life strive to win By noble deeds, or perish in its sin! Since now thou art about to leave Thy father's quiet house, And all the phantoms and illusions dear, That heaven-born fancies round it weave, And to this lonely region lend their charm, Unto the dust and noise of life condemned, By destiny, soon wilt thou learn to see Our wretchedness and infamy, My sister dear, who, in these mournful times, Alas, wilt more unhappy souls bestow On our unhappy Italy!
With strong examples strengthen thou their minds; For cruel fate propitious gales Hath e'er to virtue's course denied, Nor in weak souls can purity reside. Thy sons must either poor, or cowards be. Prefer them poor. It is the custom still. Desert and fortune never yet were friends; The strife between them never ends. Unhappy they, who in these evil days Are born when all things totter to their fall! But that we must to heaven leave. Be this, above all things, thy care, Thy children still to rear, As those who court not Fortune's smiles, Nor playthings are of idle hope, or fear: And so the future age will call them blessed; For, in this slothful and deceitful world, The living virtue ever we despise, The dead we load with eulogies.
Women, to you our country looks, For the redemption of her fame: Ah, not unto our injury and shame, On the soft lustre of your eyes A power far mightier was conferred Than that of fire or sword! The wise and strong, in thought and act, are by Your judgment led; nay all who live Beneath the sun, to you still bend the knee. On you I call, then; answer me!
Have you youth's holy aspirations quenched? And are our natures broken, crushed by you? These sluggish minds, these low desires, These nerveless arms, these feeble knees. Say, say, are you to blame for these? Love is the spur to noble deeds, To him its worth who knows; And beauty still to lofty love inspires. Love never in his spirit glows, Whose heart exults not in his breast, When angry winds in fight descend, And heaven gathers all its clouds, And mountain crests the lightnings rend.
O wives, O maidens, he Who shrinks from danger, turns his back upon His country in her need, and only seeks His base desires and appetites to feed, Excites your hatred and your scorn; If ye for men, and not for milk-sops, feel The glow of love o'er your soft bosoms steal. The mothers of unwarlike sons O may ye ne'er be called! Your children still inure For virtue's sake all trials to endure; To scorn the vices of this wretched age; To cherish loyal thoughts, and high desires; And learn how much they owe unto their sires. The sons of Sparta thus became, Amid the memories of heroes old, Deserving of the Grecian name; While the young spouse the trusty sword Upon the loved one's side would gird, And, afterwards, with her black locks, The bloodless, naked corpse concealed, When homeward borne upon the faithful shield.
Virginia, thy soft cheek In Beauty's finest mould was framed; But thy disdain Rome's haughty lord inflamed. How lovely wast thou, in thy youth's sweet prime, When the rough dagger of thy sire Thy snowy breast did smite, And thou, a willing victim, didst descend Into realms of night!
Ah, in those better days When more propitious shone the sun than now, Thy tomb, dear child, was not left comfortless, But honored with the tears of all. Behold, around thy lovely corpse, the sons Of Romulus with holy wrath inflamed; Behold the tyrants locks with dust besmeared; In sluggish breasts once more The sacred name of Liberty revered; Behold o'er all the subjugated earth, The troops of Latium march triumphant forth, From torrid desert to the gloomy pole. And thus eternal Rome, That had so long in sloth oblivious lain, A daughter's sacrifice revives again. The face of glory and her pleasant voice, O fortunate youth, now recognize, And how much nobler than effeminate sloth Are manhood's tested energies.
Take heed, O generous champion, take heed, If thou thy name by worthy thought or deed, From Time's all-sweeping current couldst redeem; Take heed, and lift thy heart to high desires! The amphitheatre's applause, the public voice, Now summon thee to deeds illustrious; Exulting in thy lusty youth. In thee, to-day, thy country dear Beholds her heroes old again appear. His hand was ne'er with blood barbaric stained, At Marathon, Who on the plain of Elis could behold The naked athletes, and the wrestlers bold, And feel no glow of emulous zeal within, The laurel wreath of victory to win.
And will you call that vain, which seeks The latent sparks of virtue to evolve, Or animate anew to high resolve, The drooping fervor of our weary souls? And is not truth, no less than falsehood, vain? And yet, with pleasing phantoms, fleeting shows, Nature herself to our relief has come; And custom, aiding nature, still must strive These strong illusions to revive; Or else all thirst for noble deeds is gone, Is lost in sloth, and blind oblivion. The time may come, perchance, when midst The ruins of Italian palaces, Will herds of cattle graze, And all the seven hills the plough will feel; Not many years will have elapsed, perchance, E'er all the towns of Italy Will the abode of foxes be, And dark groves murmur 'mid the lofty walls; Unless the Fates from our perverted minds Remove this sad oblivion of the Past; And heaven by grateful memories appeased, Relenting, in the hour of our despair, The abject nations, ripe for slaughter, spare.
But thou, O worthy youth, wouldst grieve, Thy wretched country to survive. Thou once through her mightst have acquired renown, When on her brow she wore the glittering crown, Now lost! Our fault, and Fate's! That time is o'er; Ah, such a mother who could honor, more?
But for thyself, O lift thy thoughts on high! What is our life? A thing to be despised: Least wretched, when with perils so beset, It must, perforce, its wretched self forget, Nor heed the flight of slow-paced, worthless hours; Or, when, to Lethe's dismal shore impelled, It hath once more the light of day beheld. When in the Thracian dust uprooted lay, In ruin vast, the strength of Italy, And Fate had doomed Hesperia's valleys green, And Tiber's shores, The trampling of barbarian steeds to feel, And from the leafless groves, On which the Northern Bear looks down, Had called the Gothic hordes, That Rome's proud walls might fall before their swords; Exhausted, wet with brothers' blood, Alone sat Brutus, in the dismal night; Resolved on death, the gods implacable Of heaven and hell he chides, And smites the listless, drowsy air With his fierce cries of anger and despair.
To you, ye marble gods If ye in Phlegethon reside, or dwell Above the clouds , a mockery and scorn Is the unhappy race, Of whom you temples ask, And fraudulent the law that you impose. Say, then, does earthly piety provoke The anger of the gods? O Jove, dost thou protect the impious? And when the storm-cloud rushes through the air, And thou thy thunderbolts dost aim, Against the just dost thou impel the sacred flame?
Unconquered Fate and stern necessity Oppress the feeble slaves of Death: Unable to avert their injuries, The common herd endure them patiently. But is the ill less hard to bear, Because it has no remedy? Does he who knows no hope no sorrow feel? The hero wages war with thee, Eternal deadly war, ungracious Fate, And knows not how to yield; and thy right hand, Imperious, proudly shaking off, E'en when it weighs upon him most, Though conquered, is triumphant still, When his sharp sword inflicts the fatal blow; And seeks with haughty smile the shades below.
Such valor does not suit, forsooth, Their soft, eternal bosoms; no? Or are our toils and miseries, And all the anguish of our hearts, A pleasant sport, their leisure to beguile? Yet no such life of crime and wretchedness, But pure and free as her own woods and fields, Nature to us prescribed; a queen And goddess once.
Since impious custom, now, Her happy realm hath scattered to the winds, And other laws on this poor life imposed, Will Nature of fool-hardiness accuse The manly souls, who such a life refuse? But if, by misery impelled, they sought To dash their heads against the rugged tree, Or, plunging headlong from the lofty rock, Their limbs to scatter to the winds. No law mysterious, misconception dark, Would the sad wish refuse to grant. Of all that breathe the breath of life, You, only, children of Prometheus, feel That life a burden hard to bear; Yet, would you seek the silent shores of death, If sluggish fate the boon delay, To you, alone, stern Jove forbids the way.
On brothers' breasts the conqueror treads; The hills with fear are thrilled; From her proud heights Rome totters to her fall. And smilest thou upon the dismal scene? Lavinia's children from their birth, And all their prosperous years, And well-earned laurels, hast thou seen; And thou wilt smile, with ray unchanged, Upon the Alps, when, bowed with grief and shame, The haughty city, desolate and lone, Beneath the tread of Gothic hordes shall groan.
O foolish race! Most wretched we, of all! Nor are these blood-stained fields, These caverns, that our groans have heard, Regardful of our misery; Nor shines one star less brightly in the sky. Not the deaf kings of heaven or hell, Or the unworthy earth, Or night, do I in death invoke, Or thee, last gleam the dying hour that cheers, The voice of coming ages. I no tomb Desire, to be with sobs disturbed, or with The words and gifts of wretched fools adorned. The times grow worse and worse; And who, unto a vile posterity, The honor of great souls would trust, Or fit atonement for their wrongs?
Then let the birds of prey around me wheel: And let my wretched corpse The lightning blast, the wild beast tear; And let my name and memory melt in air! Now that the sun the faded charms Of heaven again restores, And gentle zephyr the sick air revives, And the dark shadows of the clouds Are put to flight, And birds their naked breasts confide Unto the wind, and the soft light, With new desire of love, and with new hope, The conscious beasts, in the deep woods, Amid the melting frosts, inspires; May not to you, poor human souls, Weary, and overborne with grief, The happy age return, which misery, And truth's dark torch, before its time, consumed?
Say, O gentle Spring, Canst thou this icy heart inspire, and melt, That in the bloom of youth, the frost of age hath felt? O holy Nature, art thou still alive? And does the unaccustomed ear Of thy maternal voice the accents hear? Of white nymphs once, the streams were the abode. And in the clear founts mirrored were their forms. Mysterious dances of immortal feet The mountain tops and lofty forests shook,— To-day the lonely mansions of the winds;— And when the shepherd-boy the noontide shade Would seek, or bring his thirsty lambs Unto the flowery margin of the stream, Along the banks the clear song would he hear, And pipe of rustic Fauns; Would see the waters move, And stand amazed, when, hidden from the view, The quiver-bearing goddess would descend Into the genial waves, And from her snow-white arms efface The dust and blood of the exciting chase.
The flowers, the herbs once lived, The groves with life were filled: Soft airs, and clouds, and every shining light Were with the human race in sympathy, When thee, fair star of Venus, o'er The hills and dales, The traveller, in the lonely night, Pursuing with his earnest gaze, The sweet companion of his path, The loving friend of mortals deemed: When he, who, fleeing from the impious strife Of cities filled with mutiny and shame, In depths of woods remote, The rough trees clasping to his breast, The vital flame seemed in their veins to feel, The breathing leaves of Daphne, or of Phyllis sad; And seemed the sisters' tears to see, still shed For him who, smitten by the lightning's blast, Into the swift Eridanus was cast.
Nor were ye deaf, ye rigid rocks, To human sorrow's plaintive tones, While in your dark recesses Echo dwelt, No idle plaything of the winds, But spirit sad of hapless nymph, Whom unrequited love, and cruel fate, Of her soft limbs deprived. She o'er the grots, The naked rocks, and mansions desolate, Unto the depths of all-embracing air, Our sorrows, not to her unknown, Our broken, loud laments conveyed. And thou , if fame belie thee not, Didst sound the depths of human woe, Sweet bird, that comest to the leafy grove, The new-born Spring to greet, And when the fields are hushed in sleep, To chant into the dark and silent air, The ancient wrongs, and cruel treachery, That stirred the pity of the gods, to see.
But, no, thy race is not akin to ours; No sorrow framed thy melodies; Thy voice of crime unconscious, pleases less, Along the dusky valley heard. Ah, since the mansions of Olympus all Are desolate, and without guide, the bolt, That, wandering o'er the cloud-capped mountain-tops, In horror cold dissolves alike The guilty and the innocent; Since this, our earthly home, A stranger to her children has become, And brings them up, to misery; Lend thou an ear, dear Nature, to the woes And wretched fate of mortals, and revive The ancient spark within my breast; If thou, indeed, dost live, if aught there is, In heaven, or on the sun-lit earth, Or in the bosom of the sea, That pities?
No; but sees our misery. Illustrious fathers of the human race, Of you, the song of your afflicted sons Will chant the praise; of you, more dear, by far, Unto the Great Disposer of the stars, Who were not born to wretchedness, like ours. Immedicable woes, a life of tears, The silent tomb, eternal night, to find More sweet, by far, than the ethereal light, These things were not by heaven's gracious law Imposed on you. If ancient legends speak Of sins of yours, that brought calamity Upon the human race, and fell disease, Alas, the sins more terrible, by far, Committed by your children, and their souls More restless, and with mad ambition fixed, Against them roused the wrath of angry gods, The hand of all-sustaining Nature armed, By them so long neglected and despised.
Then life became a burden and a curse, And every new-born babe a thing abhorred, And hell and chaos reigned upon the earth. Thou first the day, and thou the shining lights Of the revolving stars didst see, the fields, And their new flocks and herds, O leader old And father of the human family! O world, how happy in thy loneliness, Of crimes and of disasters ignorant! Oh, how much wretchedness Fate had in store For thy poor race, unhappy father, what A series vast of terrible events! Behold, the fields, scarce tilled, with blood are stained, A brother's blood, in sudden frenzy shed; And now, alas, first hears the gentle air The whirring of the fearful wings of Death.
The trembling fratricide, a fugitive, The lonely shades avoids; in every blast That sweeps the groves, a voice of wrath he hears.