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illeopardi text integral passage complete quotation of the sources comedies works historical literary works in prose and in verses

Translated by A.S.Kline

      When the pride of Rome lay
wholly ruined in the Thracian dust,
so that fate prepared
the tramp of barbarous cavalry,
for green Italy and the Tiber’s banks,
and called a host of Goths, from naked woods
the freezing Bear oppressed,
to pierce Rome’s noble walls:
Brutus, panting, wet with fraternal blood,
in the dark night in a lonely place,
ready now to die, cursed
hell and the inexorable gods,
stirring the drowsy air in vain
with his angry call.

      ‘Dumb courage, the empty mists,
the unquiet fields of shadows,
are your haunts, and repentance
follows you. The unhappy crowd
are a mockery and derision to you,
gods of marble (if there are gods,
by Phlegethon or among the clouds),
a race you look to for temples, and insult
mortally with your fraudulent rule.
Does earthly piety serve only
to stir divine hatred? Do you sit there,
Jupiter, aiding the impious? And when
the storm flies through the air, and you
hurl your swift lightning, is it against
the pious you brandish the sacred fire?

      Unconquerable fate, and iron
necessity, crush the weak
slave of death: and the wretch whose power
fails, opposing them, takes solace
in the inevitability of ruin. Are ills
less cruel that have no redress? Does one
devoid of hope feel no pain?
O ignoble fate, the noble man, unused
to yielding, wages
eternal mortal war on you: and when
the tyranny of your right hand overcomes him
with its weight, he will shrug it off indomitably,
ceremoniously, piercing his side
with the bitter steel,
and smiling mockingly at the dark shadows.

      Those who enter Tartarus by violence
displease the gods. Such courage
is absent from mild eternal hearts.
Perhaps the gods created our troubles,
our bitter fortune, and unhappy affections,
as an amusing spectacle for their idleness?
Nature, once queen and goddess
ordained not misery and guilt for us
but a free and pure life
in the forest. Now impious customs
have beaten her sacred kingdom to the earth,
and encumbered our lives with alien laws,
does kindly Nature rise up,
when the strong reject
their unhappy times,
and accuse the arrow that is not hers?

      The wild creatures, happy, ignorant of guilt,
and their own misfortune,
are led by old age serenely
to their unrecognised end. But if pain
led them to strike their brows
against harsh trees, or hurl their bodies
headlong to the wind, from stony mountains,
O shadowy intelligence,
no arcane law would oppose
their wretched wish. Only you, of all
the many species heaven creates,
Sons of Prometheus, regret life:
only to you, O wretched men,
if slow fate delays,
does Jupiter deny the shores of death.

      And you rise, bright moon, from a sea
that flows with our blood,
and explore this unquiet night,
and this land fatal to Italy’s bravest.
The victor tramples on kindred hearts,
the hills tremble, ancient Rome
sinks from highest glory to disaster:
can you be so calm? You saw
Lavinia’s people born, and the years
of joy, and unfading laurels:
and you will shed your immutable rays
on the silent peaks, when,
to servile Italy’s shame,
this solitary place echoes again,
to barbarous footsteps.

      See how the birds, the wild creatures,
hearts filled with their habitual lives,
among the naked rocks, the green branches,
ignore the great disaster, the altered
fate of the world: and when the roofs
of the industrious farmers first redden,
the birds will rouse the valleys
with their morning songs,
and the wild beasts will chase
the weaker host of lesser creatures.
Oh fate! Oh vain humanity! We are
an abject part of things: and our ills
have not troubled the bloodstained turf,
the caves filled with groans,
human cares have not obscured the stars.

      I do not call on the deaf kings
of Cocytus or Olympus,
or shameful earth, or moribund night:
nor you, future age of knowledge,
furthest bound of dark death. Can tears
assuage a scornful end, or words or gifts
from the base crowd adorn it? Time
alters for the worse: it would be wrong
to entrust the honour of noble minds,
the last revenge for misery,
to decayed generations. Let the dark bird
hover over me with its cruel wings:
wild beasts crush my nameless remains,
storms disperse them,
winds scatter my fame, and all memory of me.

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