Sunday, July 27, 2008

Calm After the Storm

My friend Ed Steinhardt sent me this translation by Charles Guenther of Giacomo Leopardi’s poem “La quiete dopo la tempesta.” It’s being published next month in a collection of other translations by Guenther of Leopardi’s poetry. It is one of the Italian poet’s most famous works and I think that this translation captures perfectly the haunting, almost desperate quality of the original.

Calm After the Storm

The storm has passed.
I hear the birds singing, and the hen,
Gone on her way again,
Repeats her song. See the bright sky
Break through there from the west,
toward the mountain;
The countryside is clear
And the river sparkles brightly in the valley.
Each heart rejoices, everywhere
Sounds rise again,
The usual work resumes.
The craftsman comes to his door,
Singing with work in hand,
To look at the humid sky; with friends
A girl comes out to collect water
From the new-fallen rain;
And the vegetable vendor renews
His daily cry
From street to street.
Look, now the sun returns, see how it smiles
On hills and villages. Families open balconies,
Terraces and cascades:
And far away from the main stream we hear
Tinkling of bells, the screeching cart
Of the traveler who continues on his way.
Each heart rejoices.
When else, as now,
Is life so pleasant and so sweet?
When else does man
Turn to his studies with such love,
Or to his work or begin something new?
When does he remember his misfortune less?
Pleasure’s a child of anxiety:
A useless joy, the fruit
Of some past fear
Where he who abhorred life
Was induced to be afraid of death;
Where in long suffering,
Cold, silent, pale,
People sweated and trembled at the sight
Of lightning, clouds and wind.
O kindly nature,
These are your gifts.
These are the delights
You offer mortals. It’s a pleasure
For us to be relieved of pain,
You spread pain freely; grief
Rises spontaneously; and that bit of joy
Which by miracle and prodigy sometimes
Is born of anxiety, is a great gain. A human
Progeny dear to those eternal ones!
You’re lucky
Indeed if you can breathe again
After some grief: and blessed
If death heals every sorrow.

La quiete dopo la tempesta

Passata è la tempesta:
Odo augelli far festa, e la gallina,
Tornata in su la via,
Che ripete il suo verso. Ecco il sereno
Rompe là da ponente, alla montagna;
Sgombrasi la campagna,
E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare.
Ogni cor si rallegra, in ogni lato
Risorge il romorio
Torna il lavoro usato.
L’artigiano a mirar l’umido cielo,
Con l’opra in man, cantando,
Fassi in su l’uscio; a prova
Vien fuor la femminetta a còr dell’acqua
Della novella piova;
E l’erbaiuol rinnova
Di sentiero in sentiero
Il grido giornaliero.
Ecco il Sol che ritorna, ecco sorride
Per li poggi e le ville. Apre i balconi,
Apre terrazzi e logge la famiglia:
E, dalla via corrente, odi lontano
Tintinnio di sonagli; il carro stride
Del passegger che il suo cammin ripiglia.

Si rallegra ogni core.
Sì dolce, sì gradita
Quand’è, com’or, la vita?
Quando con tanto amore
L’uomo a’ suoi studi intende?
O torna all’opre? o cosa nova imprende?
Quando de’ mali suoi men si ricorda?
Piacer figlio d’affanno;
Gioia vana, ch’è frutto
Del passato timore, onde si scosse
E paventò la morte
Chi la vita abborria;
Onde in lungo tormento,
Fredde, tacite, smorte,
Sudàr le genti e palpitàr, vedendo
Mossi alle nostre offese
Folgori, nembi e vento.

O natura cortese,
Son questi i doni tuoi,
Questi i diletti sono
Che tu porgi ai mortali. Uscir di pena
È diletto fra noi.
Pene tu spargi a larga mano; il duolo
Spontaneo sorge: e di piacer, quel tanto
Che per mostro e miracolo talvolta
Nasce d’affanno, è gran guadagno. Umana
Prole cara agli eterni! assai felice
Se respirar ti lice
D’alcun dolor: beata
Se te d’ogni dolor morte risana


Anonymous said...

I took on a STRANGE habit: crying at at airports.
Your comments on my blog are moving (meaning, move me!) and I know that what's ahead of me/us ain't gonna be easy,
Fragile as hell,
like a cry baby
before the computer is soaked like a rag
your blog is looking better by the day
we;ll talk tomorrow from the NA continent

Anonymous said...

What happened to my comment left here yesterday???Censored?
Welcome home kiddo!