“After all, poetry is the least necessary thing in this world” – Guido Gozzano
Il bimbo guarda fra le dieci dita
la bella mela che vi tiene stretta;
e indugia – tanto è lucida e perfetta –
a dar coi denti quella gran ferita.
Ma dato il morso primo ecco s’affretta:
e quel che morde par cosa scipita
per l’occhio intento al morso che l’aspetta…
E già la mela è per metà finita.
Il bimbo morde ancora – e ad ogni morso
sempre è lo sguardo che precede il dente –
fin che s’arresta al torso che già tocca.
«Non sentii quasi il gusto e giungo al torso!»
Pensa il bambino… Le pupille intente
ogni piacere tolsero alla bocca.
The child looks amid his ten little fingers
at the delightful apple firmly held there
and he delays – it is so perfect so fair –
making with his teeth a scar that lingers.
But after the first bite he hastens his chewing
what he is eating seems so insipid
to his hungry eye whose next bite’s awaiting…
And already the apple’s half vanished.
The child bites again – and with every bit more
the forward glance precedes the morsels–
until the core alone lies in his hand.
“I hardly savoured it and have reached the core!”
thinks the little child…His voracious pupils
every pleasure from his mouth have banned.
Translation ©Matilda Colarossi
#GuidoGozzano (December 19, 1883 – August 9, 1916) was an Italian poet and writer.
The poem #Parabola [Parable] is from his early collection La via del rifugio (1907), and it marked the beginning of Gozzano’s career. In this poem we find his desire to communicate, to dialogue with the reader, and in doing this Gozzano “sets aulic verse against prose, setting off sparks”, as Montale stated. The ironic pessimism of the poet is evident in this work, as is his need to question the existential problems of the world around him. What is life? And what is the sense of life? Why are we always after something more?
Now, if the child is Man, and the apple is the present, the poem is rather clear: our avid eyes are always looking toward the future, rushing towards it in search of something we think we must have, but in that frenetic drive forward, we sometimes forget to “savour”, to enjoy what we have today. And such is life: we devour it, consume it in the hopes of something better without realizing that what was best is often what we already possess.
The poem is written as an Italian sonnet but with a variation in the fronte (usually ABBA ABBA). The term sonnet derives from “suono” (sound).
This sonnet is made up of two initial stanzas with four verses (quatrain) and two stanzas (sirma) with three verses (tercet) each. The rhyme scheme is ABBA, BABA, CDE, CDE. Not all the verses are hendecasyllables, as with classical sonnets; but most are.
The poet makes use of numerous poetic devices: alliteration (dieci dita; mela meta’; morde, morso; torso, tocca; gusto, giungo, etc.); consonance (intento, aspetta, etc.); assonance (for example: bimbo morde ancora – e ad ogni morso, etc.); metonymy (pupils to mean eyes, for example); personification (ferita, wound, referred to the apple); internal rhyme (bella, mela); and anastrophe (morso primo: probably to mirror the sounds morde par in the following line).
I was, obviously, not able to recreate all the poetic elements. But I tried. I started, as I teach my students to do, from the “forest”: yes, because we must never “not see” the forest because of the great attention given to the trees. So I paraphrased the poem; gave it a similar form; found possible solutions to the rhymes; and then moved on to the individual poetic elements Gozzano used to make this poem the very delightful thing it is. And so, this #Parabola/ Parable is exactly what the title says, for it presents us with a simple story but provides a great moral and spiritual lesson. – M.C.
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