E guardai nella valle: era sparito
E c’era appena, qua e là, lo strano
E alto, in cielo, scheletri di faggi,
Ed un cane uggiolava senza fine,
eco di péste né tarde né preste,
Chiesero i sogni di rovine: – Mai
Io, forse, un’ombra vidi, un’ombra errante
Sentii soltanto gl’inquïeti gridi
le péste né vicine né lontane.
In the fog
And I looked onto the valley: it was gone,
And there was just, here and there, the alien
And in the sky, skeletons of beeches,
And a dog whimpering, incessant
echoes of paces neither measured nor hasty
Asked the visions of ruins: – Will
It was, perhaps, a shadow I saw, a shadow roving
I could only hear the distressed calls
the paces neither near nor far.
Translation ©Matilda Colarossi
First published in “Primi Poemetti”.
Pascoli uses numerous poetic elements which I have tried to respect and reproduce in the English version: Dantesque tercets (ABA BCB CDC); enjambments; personification (the visions and trees speak); metaphors; chiasmus (Asked/chiesero i sogni di rovine […] gli scheletri di piante chiesero/ asked” (vv. 16-18); polysyndeton (and, and, neither, nor); antithesis (neither near nor distant […] neither measured nor hasty); assonance to reproduce the wild sounds in the fog (the /i:/ in vocio, gridi, piccolo, selvaggi –peal, brief, screeches); alliteration to accentuate the visions (the /s/ in sospesi, sogni, silenziosi –suspended, visions, silent); paronomasia (peste/preste and alterne/eterne to reproduce the sound of footsteps – pace, haste, alternate, infinite). We also find reference to Dante’s Paradise: Cain with a ‘truss of thorns’ (fascio in testa) followed by his dog, (Canto XX from the second canto). And thus the homo viator as a symbol of universal nomadism, the passage from life to death.
Pascoli asks himself what life is. It is a valley over which a uniform, grey ocean extends, an ocean that floods, submerges everything and everyone. You look and all you see is fragmented pieces of a past life, the skeletons of trees and the ruins of solitary homes that dot the distance. You listen and all you hear is cries, sometimes brief, sometimes incessant among the echoes of footsteps. And Man walks and walks, immersed in the mystery of life. But will he ever reach his goal? No-one knows. Man is but a shadow in that fog, appearing, disappearing. All that remains are the cries.
Numerous translations of this poem exist and can be found on the internet.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.