La trombettina

Corrado Govoni

Ecco che cosa resta

di tutta la magia della fiera:

quella trombettina,

di latta azzurra e verde,

che suona una bambina

camminando, scalza, per i campi.

Ma, in quella nota sforzata,

ci son dentro i pagliacci bianchi e rossi,

c’è la banda d’oro rumoroso,

la giostra coi cavalli, l’organo, i lumini.

Come, nel sgocciolare della gronda,

c’è tutto lo spavento della bufera,

la bellezza dei lampi e dell’arcobaleno;

nell’umido cerino d’una lucciola

che si sfa su una foglia di brughiera,

tutta la meraviglia della primavera.

The little trumpet

Corrado Govoni

This is what remains

of all the magic of the fair:

that little tin trumpet –

of hues of green and azure –

that the little girl is playing

as, shoeless, she walks the plains.

But, in those strained notes,

there are clowns all white and red,

there’s a brass-band of noisy gold,

a merry-go-round, lamps, and an organ.

Just as, in the drip of the drainpipe,

there is the fear of the storm.

the beauty of the bolts and the rainbow;

in the damp wick of a firefly

that is fading on a moorland sprig

lies all the wonder of spring.


Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2019

This is one of Govoni’s most famous poems. It is from the collection Il quaderno dei sogni e delle stelle (1924). We see the poem through the eyes of the little girl, who we find walking barefoot through the meadows playing a little tin trumpet, the kind we can find on sale at a country fair.

The fair, rare moments of amusement in the life of country folk, is over, but the little girl and her trumpet are able to re-evoke the magic. Govoni creates a carefree moment of joy and innocence: we have the strained notes of a tin trumpet that hold all the rides, the clowns, and the band (features of crepuscular poetry, of which Govoni was the father), and we have a child who walks barefoot through the fields. It is memory that keeps the happiness passed with us forever.

The imagery is lovely: the band is of noisy gold (metaphor and synesthesia); the dripping of the rainwater from the eaves after the storm recalls both our fear and our fascination with nature; the intermittent wick of the firefly (metaphor) recalls the bolts of lightning, but also that spring is in the air.

Written in free verse, the language is simple but strengthened by the use of metaphors, synesthesia, alliteration, assonance, and consonance (“ ecco che cosa resta” (c,o) ; “camminando scalza per i campi” (c, a); “nota sforzata” (o, a); “oro rumoroso” (o, r); “sgocciolare della gronda” (o, g); “si sfa” (s)), and a double simile at the end (line 11/16). As always, quite a bit was lost in translation.- M.C.

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