La pietra scontenta della sua vita solitaria

Leonardo da Vinci

Una pietra novamente per l’acque scoperta, di bella grandezza, si stava sopra un certo loco rilevata, dove terminava un dilettevole boschetto sopra una sassosa strada, in compagnia d’erbette, di vari fiori di diversi colori ornata, e vedea la gran somma delle pietre che nella a sé sottoposta strada collocate erano. Le venne desiderio di la giù lasciarsi cadere, dicendo con seco: ”Che fo qui con queste erbe? Io voglio con queste mie sorelle in compagnia abitare”. E giù lassatosi cadere infra le desiderate compagne, finì il suo volubile corso; e stata alquanto cominciò a essere da le rote de’ carri, dai piè de’ ferrati cavalli e de’ viandanti, a essere in continuo travaglio; chi la volta, quale la pestava, alcuna volta si levava alcuno pezzo, quando stava coperta dal fango o sterco di qualche animale, e invano riguardava il loco donde partita s’era, innel loco della soletaria e tranquilla pace.

Così accade a quelli che nella vita soletaria e contemplativa vogliano venir a abitare nelle città, infra i popoli pieni d’infini[ti] mali.

The rock who did not like her solitary       life

Leonardo da Vinci

A large rock, which re-emerged once the waters had receded, rose on a lofty spot surrounded by meadows dotted with an array of multi-coloured flowers.  *She stood on the edge of a lovely wood that overlooked a rocky road. From the lofty heights she could see the multitude of rocks lying below, and she was overcome with the desire to roll down to the road, saying to herself: “What am I doing up here among the grasses? I want to be living with my sisters.” And so she let herself drop until she reached her sought-after companions down below. She had only just reached her destination when she was subjected to the continually trying and heavy wheels of wagons, the shod hooves of horses and the feet of rovers. As she lay trampled upon again and again, she began to lose bits and pieces; she became covered in mud and dung; and, in vain, she would look up at the peaceful, solitary place she had left behind.

Such is the life of those who want to leave their solitary life of contemplation to come live in cities among wicked men.

Translation © Matilda Colarossi 2014

For numerous years I read to children in libraries and schools. I was always looking for new tales and new fables to read to them. There were legends like Petuzzo, and stories by Maria Messina, and there were poems by Rodari … and then, after much searching, came Leonardo da Vinci. The writings of the latter were a huge surprise to me. I had no idea he wrote fables and legends in the margins of his codices: he was the artist that painted The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa; he was the man that invented so many of the things we use today; but Leonardo the writer was new to me. I did not know, until I started reading his fables, how all-encompassing his intellect and his moral fibre was. The fables and legends that I discovered were asides of a sort; words written succinctly; words written backwards, as he was known to do. The more I read the more I liked them. They are pearls of wisdom, teachings, lessons in humility. I believed I could learn about the man through those writings, and I think I did. From the fables I went to articles on his life, anything I could find from Vasari to more modern scholars. The man Leonardo started taking shape in my head, the real Leonardo, or so I believe. And I liked his fragility more and more, and I liked the child Leonardo hidden in those fables more and more.

I am no scholar; I am no expert on Leonardo; I was well aware of this, but I remembered his own words—“I am fully aware that, since I am not a man of letters, there are opinionated men who will find it only right to criticize me, claiming that I am not lettered. […] They will say that, since I am not a man of letters, I cannot discuss the matters that interest me. They do not know that these were born of my own personal experience—not of the words of others— which has always been my teacher, and those I will put forward”— and that gave me the courage to interpret the fables I liked best and to put them together in a book for children. What came after that was a publisher, MutatuM Publishing, and an illustrator, Dario Mura, and the realization that Leonardo’s words were like a light in the dark for those who sometimes feel overcome by life and hardships and insecurity and the arrogance of others.

I have chosen to publish the Solitary Rock here on my blog, because I believe Leonardo is talking about himself. I think he is that solitary rock looking for his place in life among others. This translation is not the same version that is found in my children’s book: the one found in the book is my interpretation of the fable and, of course, more child-friendly.- M.C.

*In Italian pietra is rock and it is a feminine noun, thus “she” in translation.


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