Ride la gazza, nera sugli aranci

 

Salvatore Quasimodo

Forse è un segno vero della vita:

intorno a me fanciulli con leggeri

moti del capo danzan in un gioco

di cadenze e di voci lungo il prato

della chiesa. Pietà della sera, ombre

riaccese sopra l’erba così verde,

bellissime nel fuoco della luna!

Memoria vi concede breve sonno;

ora, destatevi. Ecco, scroscia il pozzo

per la prima marea. Questa è l’ora:

non più mia, arsi, remoti simulacri.

E tu vento del sud forte di zàgare,

spingi la luna dove nudi dormono

fanciulli, forza il puledro sui campi

umidi d’orme di cavalle, apri

il mare, alza le nuvole dagli alberi:

già l’airone s’avanza verso l’acqua

e fiuta lento il fango tra le spine,

ride la gazza,nera sugli aranci.

1942

The magpie laughs, black on orange trees

 

Salvatore Quasimodo

Perhaps it is a true sign of life:

around me children with their heads

lightly swaying dance in a pastime

of rhyme and of voices on the lawn

of the church. Grace of the night, shadows

lit anew upon the grass so green,

beautiful in the fire of the moon!

Memory grants you but brief repose;

now, awaken. Here, spatters the pool

for the first new tide. This is the hour:

no longer mine, burnt, distant simulacri.

And you south wind strong with orange scent,

drive the moon to where youths doze

naked, force the foal onto fields

humid with the hooves of mares, open

the sea, raise the clouds from the trees:

now the heron slowly wades the water

and sniffs at the earth among the thorns,

the magpie laughs, black on orange trees.

1942

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2019

This poem by Salvatore Quasimodo is from the collection Poesie e discorsi sulla poesie, Mondadori, Milano (1996)

The title of the poem Ride la gazza, nera sugli aranci  is taken from the last line of the poem. The verses are written in hendecasyllable. The verse is free.

The poet recalls his young life, his native land (Modica, Sicily): the memory is so clear that it seems to unfold before his very eyes. The dancing children, their heads moving in time with the rhyme they are chanting are almost real. And it is only thanks to the shadows of the night that these memories can return to him, and they disappear for brief intervals during sleep, so he must awaken.

And then, water spatters (scroscia) in the pool because of the new tide; and that life no longer belongs to him: it is distant, brunt (arsi), made of ghosts (semulacri).

In the last verses nature takes on a different hue: the green grass, and the beautiful fire of the moon are replaced with the heron searching for a prey among the thorns; and the magpie laughs hauntingly, unsettlingly among the orange trees…The life he once lived is gone forevermore.

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

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