l’antico pianto

Amalia Guglielminetti

Quindi prosegua per cammini ombrosi,
a fior di labbro modulando un canto
che per me l’altra notte mi composi.

Poichè talor non piango io il mio pianto,
lo canto, e qualche mia triste canzone
fu come il sangue del mio cuore infranto.

Tempo fu che le mie forze più buone
stremai in canti a’ piedi d’un Signore
che m’arse di ben vana passïone.

Io piangevo così note d’amore,
come la cieca in sul quadrivio, volta
al sole, canta il suo buio dolore

e non s’avvede che nessun l’ascolta.

ancient cry

Amalia Guglielminetti

And thus it advances along shadowy roads,
it kisses my lips and shapes a refrain
which I the other night did compose.

For tears I do not weep, now and again,
but a refrain, and my cheerless chant
was oft like my bleeding heart broken.

‘Twas a time when my forces were spent
singing my verses to a Gentleman
of a passion vain with which I burnt.

And thus I wept long notes of devotion,
as the blind woman of the quadrivium,
who, face to the sun, sings her dark pain

and cannot see no one is listening.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2018

The problems I faced translating this poem were not limited to the poetic devices that are almost impossible to render; they also regard the use of certain words, simple words that may seem to pose no problem whatsoever: pianto and canto, for example.

The Poet uses the words pianto noun, piango verb, piangevo verb three times, as well as in the title; it rhymes with canto, which she uses four times in different forms: canto, canti, canta, and finally canzone. As well as rhyming, canto and pianto are interchangeable throughout the text because the poet does not cry, piangere, her pain in tears, pianto, but she does so in song, verse, canto.

I could find no way to say pianto in English and link it to the verb: I don’t weep my weeping?  I don’t cry my crying?  I chose, for tears I do not weep, and there, immediately, I lost so much.

So pianto in my translation is weep, tears, wept. Canto is refrain (for the rhyme with again, broken), chant (for the rhyme with spent, burnt), and sings at the very end (for the consonance).

I have lost so much in the translation, but I have gained so much in translating the poem.


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