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Count Giacomo Leopardi

(29 June 1798 – 14 June 1837 / Rencanati)

Recollections


Ye dear stars of the Bear, I did not think
I should again be turning, as I used,
To see you over father's garden shine,
And from the windows talk with you again
Of this old house, where as a child I dwelt,
And where I saw the end of all my joys.
What charming images, what fables, once,
The sight of you created in my thought,
And of the lights that bear you company!
Silent upon the verdant clod I sat,
My evening thus consuming, as I gazed
Upon the heavens, and listened to the chant
Of frogs that in the distant marshes croaked;
While o'er the hedges, ditches, fire-flies roamed,
And the green avenues and cypresses
In yonder grove were murmuring to the wind;
While in the house were heard, at intervals,
The voices of the servants at their work.
What thoughts immense in me the sight inspired
Of that far sea, and of the mountains blue,
That yonder I behold, and which I thought
One day to cross, mysterious worlds and joys
Mysterious in the future fancying!
Of my hard fate unconscious, and how oft
This sorrowful and barren life of mine
I willingly would have for death exchanged!

Nor did my heart e'er tell me, I should be
Condemned the flower of my youth to spend
In this wild native region, and amongst
A wretched, clownish crew, to whom the names
Of wisdom, learning, are but empty sounds,
Or arguments of laughter and of scorn;
Who hate, avoid me; not from envy, no;
For they do not esteem me better than
Themselves, but fancy that I, in my heart,
That feeling cherish; though I strive, indeed,
No token of such feeling to display.
And here I pass my years, abandoned, lost,
Of love deprived, of life; and rendered fierce,
'Mid such a crowd of evil-minded ones,
My pity and my courtesy I lose,
And I become a scorner of my race,
By such a herd surrounded; meanwhile, fly
The precious hours of youth, more precious far
Than fame, or laurel, or the light of day,
Or breath of life: thus uselessly, without
One joy, I lose thee, in this rough abode,
Whose only guests are care and suffering,
O thou, the only flower of barren life!

The wind now from the tower of the town
The deep sound of the bell is bringing. Oh,
What comfort was that sound to me, a child,
When in my dark and silent room I lay,
Besieged by terrors, longing for the dawn!
Whate'er I see or hear, recalls to mind
Some vivid image, recollection sweet;
Sweet in itself, but O how bitter made
By painful sense of present suffering,
By idle longing for the past, though sad,
And by the still recurring thought, '_I was_'!
Yon gallery that looks upon the west;
Those frescoed walls, these painted herds, the sun
Just rising o'er the solitary plain,
My idle hours with thousand pleasures filled,
While busy Fancy, at my side, still spread
Her bright illusions, wheresoe'er I went.
In these old halls, when gleamed the snow without,
And round these ample windows howled the wind,
My sports resounded, and my merry words,
In those bright days, when all the mysteries
And miseries of things an aspect wear,
So full of sweetness; when the ardent youth
Sees in his untried life a world of charms,
And, like an unexperienced lover, dotes
On heavenly beauty, creature of his dreams!

O hopes, illusions of my early days!--
Of you I still must speak, to you return;
For neither flight of time, nor change of thoughts,
Or feelings, can efface you from my mind.
Full well I know that honor and renown
Are phantoms; pleasures but an idle dream;
That life, a useless misery, has not
One solid fruit to show; and though my days
Are empty, wearisome, my mortal state
Obscure and desolate, I clearly see
That Fortune robs me but of little. Yet,
Alas! as often as I dwell on you,
Ye ancient hopes, and youthful fancy's dreams,
And then look at the blank reality,
A life of ennui and of wretchedness;
And think, that of so vast a fund of hope,
Death is, to-day, the only relic left,
I feel oppressed at heart, I feel myself
Of every comfort utterly bereft.
And when the death, that I have long invoked,
Shall be at hand, the end be reached of all
My sufferings; when this vale of tears shall be
To me a stranger, and the future fade,
Fade from sight forever; even then, shall I
Recall you; and your images will make
Me sigh; the thought of having lived in vain,
Will then intrude, with bitterness to taint
The sweetness of that day of destiny.

Nay, in the first tumultuous days of youth,
With all its joys, desires, and sufferings,
I often called on death, and long would sit
By yonder fountain, longing, in its waves
To put an end alike to hope and grief.
And afterwards, by lingering sickness brought
Unto the borders of the grave, I wept
O'er my lost youth, the flower of my days,
So prematurely fading; often, too,
At late hours sitting on my conscious bed,
Composing, by the dim light of the lamp,
I with the silence and the night would moan
O'er my departing soul, and to myself
In languid tones would sing my funeral-song.

Who can remember you without a sigh,
First entrance into manhood, O ye days
Bewitching, inexpressible, when first
On the enchanted mortal smiles the maid,
And all things round in emulation smile;
And envy holds its peace, not yet awake,
Or else in a benignant mood; and when,
--O marvel rare!--the world a helping hand
To him extends, his faults excuses, greets
His entrance into life, with bows and smiles
Acknowledges his claims to its respect?
O fleeting days! How like the lightning's flash,
They vanish! And what mortal can escape
Unhappiness, who has already passed
That golden period, his own _good_ time,
That comes, alas, so soon to disappear?

And thou, Nerina, does not every spot
Thy memory recall? And couldst thou e'er
Be absent from my thought? Where art thou gone,
That here I find the memory alone,
Of thee, my sweet one? Thee thy native place
Beholds no more; that window, whence thou oft
Wouldst talk with me, which sadly now reflects
The light of yonder stars, is desolate.
Where art thou, that I can no longer hear
Thy gentle voice, as in those days of old,
When every faintest accent from thy lips
Was wont to turn me pale? Those days have gone.
They _have been_, my sweet love! And thou with them
Hast passed. To others now it is assigned
To journey to and fro upon the earth,
And others dwell amid these fragrant hills.
How quickly thou hast passed! Thy life was like
A dream. While dancing there, joy on thy brow
Resplendent shone, anticipations bright
Shone in thy eyes, the light of youth, when Fate
Extinguished them, and thou didst prostrate lie.
Nerina, in my heart the old love reigns.
If I at times still go unto some feast,
Or social gathering, unto myself
I say: 'Nerina, thou no more to feast
Dost go, nor for the ball thyself adorn.'
If May returns, when lovers offerings
Of flowers and of songs to maidens bring,
I say: 'Nerina mine, to thee spring ne'er
Returns, and love no more its tribute brings.'
Each pleasant day, each flowery field that I
Behold, each pleasure that I taste, the thought
Suggest: 'Nerina pleasure knows no more,
The face of heaven and earth no more beholds.'
Ah, thou hast passed, for whom I ever sigh!
Hast passed; and still the memory of thee
Remains, and with each thought and fancy blends
Each varying emotion of the heart;
And _will_ remain, so bitter, yet so sweet!

Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010

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