Nella nebbia

Giovanni Pascoli

E guardai nella valle: era sparito
tutto! Sommerso! Era un gran mare piano
grigio, senz’onde, senza lidi, unito.

E c’era appena, qua e là, lo strano
vocio di gridi piccoli e selvaggi;
uccelli sparsi per quel mondo vano.

E alto, in cielo, scheletri di faggi,
come sospesi, e sogni di rovine
e di silenziosi eremitaggi.

Ed un cane uggiolava senza fine,
né seppi donde, forse a certe péste
che sentii, né lontane né vicine;

eco di péste né tarde né preste,
alterne, eterne. E io laggiù guardai:
nulla ancora e nessuno, occhi, vedeste.

Chiesero i sogni di rovine: – Mai
non giungerà? – Gli scheletri di piante
chiesero: – E tu chi sei, che sempre vai? –

Io, forse, un’ombra vidi, un’ombra errante
con sopra il capo un largo fascio. Vidi,
e più non vidi, nello stesso istante.

Sentii soltanto gl’inquïeti gridi
d’uccelli spersi, l’uggiolar del cane,
e, per il mar, senz’onde e senza lidi,

le péste né vicine né lontane.

In the fog

Giovanni Pascoli

And I looked onto the valley: it was gone,
all of it! Submerged! It was a vast still ocean,
grey, without waves, without shores, uniform.

And there was just, here and there, the alien
peal of brief and feral screeches;
birds in that invisible world strewn.

And in the sky, skeletons of beeches,
as if suspended, and visions of ruins
and of silent hermitages.

And a dog whimpering, incessant
I knew not where, perhaps where heavy
paces sounded, neither near nor distant;

echoes of paces neither measured nor hasty
alternate, infinite. And there my glance fell:
nothing and no-one did you, my eyes, see.

Asked the visions of ruins: – Will
he ever come? – The skeletons of trees
asked: – And who are you, who are never still?-

It was, perhaps, a shadow I saw, a shadow roving
with on its head a heavy truss. I saw,
and no longer saw, at once, instantly.

I could only hear the distressed calls
of birds lost, the whimpering of the dog,
and the ocean, without waves and without shores,

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 internet.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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