Imitazione della gioia

 

Salvatore Quasimodo

 

Dove gli alberi ancora
abbandonata più fanno la sera,
come indolente
è svanito l’ultimo tuo passo
che appare appena il fiore
sui tigli e insiste alla sua sorte.

Una ragione cerchi agli affetti,
provi il silenzio nella tua vita.

Altra ventura a me rivela
il tempo specchiato. Addolora
come la morte, bellezza ormai
in altri volti fulminea.
Perduto ho ogni cosa innocente,
anche in questa voce, superstite
a imitare la gioia.

Imitation of joy

 

Salvatore Quasimodo

 

Where the trees still
more abandoned make the night,
as if indolent
vanishing was your last step
barely visible like the blossom
on the lindens, insisting in its destiny.

A cause you seek for those emotions,
there is for once silence in your life.

Another meaning is revealed to me
in that time mirrored. It pains me,
as does death, beauty now
on other faces fleeting.
Lost have I all that is innocent,
even in this voice, a survivor
imitating joy.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi

The poem Imitazione della gioia is from the collection Ed è subito sera, Milan, Mondadori.

I found the translation of this poem very challenging. When the source language presents a particularly convoluted syntax, the translator is faced with a difficult choice: to “correct” the word order to make the meaning of the poem clearer, and in so doing so paraphrase the verse; or to respect the poet’s word order, and in doing so risk seeming grammatically incompetent. I opted, as I always do, for the second solution, with the addition of a comma or two. I would, however, like to add some insight: The poet has lost his beloved; and the natural setting and his emotions go hand in hand. Where there are still trees, the night seems even lonelier, more abandoned; and his beloved’s steps vanish slowly as do the blossoms on the trees with the fading light, inevitably. Love ends, and no-one knows why, just that now they are alone – perhaps for the first time. The poet, however, sees the loss “mirrored ” in his past, in other similar events, and seeing beauty on the faces of passersby is as painful to him as death itself. The last three lines can be interpreted in two ways: literally, the poet has lost all innocence and his joy can now be nothing but imitation; or, universally, only poetry can imitate joy because it is one of its very conditions.

The character of Quasimodo’s poetry is brilliantly expressed in these words by Sergio Solmi in the preface to the collection: “a supreme illusion of song that miraculously is sustained after the destruction of every illusion”.

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