Giacomo Leopardi - Opera Omnia >>  Memories
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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

       Lovely stars of the Plough, I never dreamed
I would return to gaze at you, as before,
sparkling above my father’s gardens,
or meditate on you, from the window
of the same house I lived in as a child,
where I saw an end to all my happiness.
What imaginings, what fancies the sight
of you, the lights of your company,
used to create then in my thoughts!
Then I used to sit silent on green grass,
spending the greater part of the evening,
watching the sky, hearing the croaking
of frogs far off in the countryside!
And the fireflies flickering here and there
in hedges, flowers, the breeze sighing
from scented roadways, the cypress trees,
that woodland: under my father’s roof
conversation echoed, and the calm work
of the servants. What immense thoughts,
what sweet dreams breathed in me at the sight
of the distant ocean, those azure hills
that I can see from here, and that I hoped
to cross one day, imagining secret worlds
and arcane delights to support my existence!
Ignorant of my fate, how often
I wished to exchange this sad
naked life of mine, for death.

      I never thought in my heart that in my green
youth I’d be condemned to waste away
in my barbarous native place, among a vile,
loutish race: where learning and wisdom
are foreign words, and a cause of mockery
and laughter: they hate and ignore me,
not just through envy, since they don’t think
me superior to them, but they consider
that I do think so, in my heart, even
though I give no sign of that to anyone.
Hidden, abandoned here, I spend my time,
without love, without life: becoming coarse,
perhaps, among this crowd of ill-wishers:
this place strips me of all pity and virtue,
and makes me scornful of all mankind,
oppressed by the herd: and meanwhile
the hours of my dear youth fly by: dearer
than fame and laurels, dearer than the pure
light of day, or breathing: I lose you,
without delight, uselessly, in this
inhuman place, among my troubles,
O sole flower of my arid life.

      The wind comes bringing the sound
of the hour striking from the clock tower.
I remember how it used to comfort me
when I was a child, in my darkened room,
waiting every night, in inexorable terror,
for dawn’s sighing. Here there’s nothing I see
and feel that doesn’t stir visions inside me,
or fails to make some sweet memory rise.
In itself, sweet: but thoughts of the present
bring sorrow, vain desire for the past,
and its sadness, and the words: ‘I was’.
That lodge there, facing the last rays
of the sun, those painted walls, the cattle
they picture, and the daylight rising
on open country, offered my leisure
a thousand delights, while, wherever I was,
I had that powerful illusion, speaking with me,
at my side. In these old rooms, lit
by the snow outside, while the wind
whistled round the wide casements,
our games and our shouting echoed,
at that age when the shameful, bitter
mystery of things appears to us full
of sweetness: the child, like
a naïve lover, sees deceptive life,
whole and un-tasted, and worships
the heavenly beauty he imagines.

      O hope, hope, pleasant illusion
of those first years! Often in speech
I return to you: whom I can’t forget
despite time’s changes, and the tide
of thoughts and feelings. I know
that glory and honour are phantoms:
joy and goodness mere desire: life,
worthless misery, bears no fruit. Yet,
however void my years, dark and arid
my mortal state, Fate, I know, robs me
of little. Ah, but whenever I think
of you again, O ancient hope of mine,
and of my first dear imaginings,
and then consider my vile, sad
life, and realise that death
is what remains of all that hope,
I feel my heart shrink, and feel
I’ll never be reconciled to my fate.
And when death, wished for so long,
arrives, and when my misfortunes
are at an end, when the earth
is a foreign vale to me, and the future
vanishes from sight, I’ll still
remember you: and that vision
will still make me sigh, embitter me
at having lived in vain, and temper
the fatal day’s delight with pain.

      And already in the first tumult of youth,
of happiness, and anguish, and desire,
I often called on death, and sat
for a long time beside the water,
thinking of ending hope and grief
below the surface. Then when a secret
illness placed my life in danger,
I wept for my youth, and the flower
of my poor days, fading away
in time: and often, late at night,
sitting on my bed, sadly creating
poetry, in the dim lamplight,
mourned, with night and silence,
the fleeting soul, and, in my weakness,
even sang a funeral elegy to myself.

      Who can remember you without sighs,
first threshold of youth, O lovely days,
impossible to describe, when young girls
first began to smile at a rapturous mortal:
everything is smiling as it gathers
around him: envy, not yet roused,
or still benign, is silent: and isn’t it
as if, (unaccustomed miracle!), the world
reaches out its hand to assist him, forgives
his errors, applauds his first appearance
in life, and bowing low shows it accepts
him as a man, and names him so?
Fleeting days! Vanishing like a gleam
of lightning. And what human being ever
remains ignorant of misfortune, once
that lovely season is done, when the best
of times, his youth, ah youth, has gone?

      O Nerina! Do I not hear these places
speak of you? Could you truly have
slipped from my mind? Where have you
gone, my sweetest one, that all I find
of you are memories? I no longer see you
in your native land: that window’s deserted
from which you used to talk with me,
from which the starlight is sadly reflected.
Where are you, whose voice
I no longer hear as I once did,
when every remote sound your lips gave
made my face grow pale as it reached me?
Time passes. Your days are gone,
my sweet love. You have vanished.
To pass through this world is given to others,
and to make a home among these fragrant hills.
You vanished so swiftly: and your life was like
a dream. Here you danced: on your brow
joy shone out, and that confident illusion,
that light of youth, shone out, till fate
quenched them, and you lay there, dead.
Ah Nerina, the ancient love reigns
in my heart. Whenever I go to dinners,
or celebrations, I often say to myself:
‘Oh, Nerina, you never dress
for dinners, or celebrations now.’
If May returns, when lovers go with branches
full of flowers, and songs, to their girls,
I say: ‘My Nerina, spring never
returns for you, love never returns.
With every clear day, every flowered
field I see, and every joy I feel, I say:
‘Nerina no longer feels the joy: she sees
neither fields nor sky.’ Ah, you are gone,
my eternal sigh: you are gone, and bitter
memory is the companion to all my vague
imaginings, all my tender feelings,
the dear, sad tremors of my heart.

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