Giovanni Pascoli

Dov’era la luna? ché il cielo
notava in un’alba di perla,
ed ergersi il mandorlo e il melo
parevano a meglio vederla.
Venivano soffi di lampi
da un nero di nubi laggiù;
veniva una voce dai campi:

Le stelle lucevano rare
tra mezzo alla nebbia di latte:
sentivo il cullare del mare,
sentivo un fru fru tra le fratte;
sentivo nel cuore un sussulto,
com’eco d’un grido che fu.
Sonava lontano il singulto:

Su tutte le lucide vette
tremava un sospiro di vento:
squassavano le cavallette
finissimi sistri d’argento
(tintinni a invisibili porte
che forse non s’aprono più?…);
e c’era quel pianto di morte…

The scops owl

Giovanni Pascoli

Where sat the moon? for the sky
was swimming in a pearly dawn,
taut the almond and apple tree
seemed intent on looking on.
Gusts of lightning from afar
in the black of clouds did move;
a voice came from the pasture

Few stars twinkled up above
in the misty milky fog:
I heard the sway of the sea,
I heard the bustling in the bog:
I heard my heart skip a beat,
the echo cries from long-ago.
A sob distant did repeat:

On all the glimmering rooftops
there sighed a breath of wind:
incessant thrummed the locusts
the finest silver sistrums
(chimes rang on doors unseen
would they open up anew?…);
there’s that cry of death again…

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2019

The poem L’Assiuolo by Giovanni Pascoli was first published in the journal “Marzocco” in 1897. It would later become part of the famous collection of poems called “Myricae”. The title of the poem takes its name from the nocturnal bird, the scops owl. The hoo, monotonous and sorrow-filled, is repeated at the end of every stanza. Nature and darkness dominate the atmosphere. Through a rapid succession of images, inspired by the sounds in the night, we uncover the poet’s feelings. The initial serenity becomes more and more mysterious and unsettling, terminating with the thought of death.  The mystery of death is, as always present, as is the loss of his loved ones, and the grief that follows. The theme of mystery is created by the use of words such as pearly dawn, sighed breath of wind, black of clouds, misty milky fog etc. and ends with the greatest mystery of all: death.

As always the translation was slow and laborious. Sometimes the rhythm was off. For the very first time, I was helped by the most musical member of my family. He strummed and sang the verses, and the kinks were ironed out, I hope, nicely. M.C.

The poem can be enjoyed here to the beautiful music of Andrea Strappa.

Painting by Ohara Koson, Japan, 1915

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

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