Giacomo Leopardi - Opera Omnia >>  On a lovely lady’s image
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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

(Carved on her Tomb)

You were such, who now are buried
dust and skeleton. Placed motionless,
helpless, above the earth and bone,
mute, gazing at the flight of ages,
stands the sole guardian
of grief and memory, the image
of lost beauty. That sweet glance
that made men tremble as it gazed
at them, motionless, as now: those lips,
from whose depths pleasure flowed,
as though from a full urn: that neck,
once circled by desire: that loving hand,
that often, lightly opened, felt
the hand it clasped grow cold:
and the breast, at which men
visibly paled, once lived:
now they are earth
and bone: and stone conceals
the sad and shameful sight.

      So fate diminishes
that image, that seemed to us
a living vision of heaven. Eternal
mystery of our being. One moment, Beauty,
the fount of vast, exalted thoughts,
ineffable feelings, towers over us, and seems
like a tremulous radiance
immortal nature casts on this arena,
the sign and sure hope
of blessed realms and the golden world,
of a superhuman fate,
granted to our mortal state:
next moment, at a light touch,
what was but now
an angelic face becomes vile,
abominable, base, and the
marvellous ideal that took
its being from it, vanishes
at once from the mind.

      Infinite desires
and noble visions
are created in the mind
by virtue of harmonious knowledge:
so that the human spirit wanders
secretly through a sea of delight,
as though swimming ardently
in play through the Ocean:
But if a discordant note
strikes the ear, that paradise
turns to nothingness in a moment.

      How does human nature reach
so high, if it is merely
wretched, frail, dust and shadow?
Yet if it is somehow noble,
how can our finest thoughts and acts
be kindled and quenched
for such slight, ignoble reasons?

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