No. 6


Giacomo Leopardi  

Translated from the Italian by Steven J. Willett  


Sweet and clear is the night and without a breeze,
And silent over roofs and among gardens
Pauses the moon, and from a distance reveals
Every mountain cloudless.  O my dear lady,
Silent now is every path, and across balconies
Only the rare nightlight still casts a glimmer;
You sleep, for an easy slumber received you
In your tranquil rooms; and not the slightest care
Gnaws you; and you surely don’t know or think
What a lesion you’ve opened into my breast.
You sleep: I show myself alone to salute
This sky, which appears so benign in aspect,
And that ancient all-overpowering Nature,
Who fashioned me for anguish.  “To you I deny
Hope,” she said, “yes even hope; and nothing else
Will ever brighten your eyes except weeping.”
This day was holy; now from its amusements
You take repose; and perhaps you’ll remember
In dreams how many you pleased today, how many
Pleased you: not I, not once, could I ever hope,
I might appear in your thoughts.  Meanwhile I ask
How much remains to live, and here on the earth
Cast myself, and cry, and shudder.  O awful days
In such a green youth!  Alas, along the road
I hear, not far away, the solitary song
Of a craftsman returning home late at night,
After some diversions, to his poor dwelling;
And it wrings my heart with such ferocity 
To think how all in this world passes away,
And barely leaves a trace.  See, the festive day
Is flown, and to the festive one another   
Common one succeeds, and time carries away
Every human accidence.  Where now is the sound
Of those ancient peoples?  Where now is the clamor 
Of those famous ancestors, and the great empire          
Of that Rome, and the arms, and the ceaseless clash
That went resistlessly through earth and oceans?
All is peace and silence, and all the world lies
Deep in rest, and no one talks of them at all.    
In my earliest years, when the festive day was
Greedily awaited, finding afterwards that 
It had expired, I grieving, in sleeplessness,
Crushed the feather pillow; and in the late night
A song heard somewhere down along the alleys,
Dwindling far off to die little by little, 
Already, even as this one now, wrung my heart.




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