Corrado Govoni

Nel cielo soffii di deserto passano,
la sera violacea viene,
nel giardino le belle rose muoiono
olimpicamente serene.

E là nei campi di frumento plumbeo
si sentono orrendi fragori
come uccellacci d’inferno fantastici
svolazzano rossi bagliori.

È lo scoppio dell’uragano. Franano
le nere valanghe del tuono;
la pioggia che rimbalza sulle tegole
produce un dolcissimo suono.

Fulminei nel cielo si stiracchiano
diabolici metri di fuoco;
sopra zuffe di nuvole si squassano
bandiere stracciate di croco.

Passa la raffica. Sul fienil madido
lucente d’un rosso più vivo
all’improvviso s’apre il fresco circolo
dell’arcobaleno sportivo.

Ma non è pace; se quassù è già limpido
e stemprasi l’arco, sottile,
laggiù come uno spegnitoio livido
profilasi il bel campanile

ed un oscuro all’orizzonte seguita
percorso da un sordo rumore,
come in un cuor che ha perdonato restano
residui di amaro livore.

Sul cimitero spensierato, tremule
s’accendon le stelle incorrotte;
s’accendon le fosforescenti lucciole,
e cade la splendida notte.

Oh dolce spalancar le imposte al turbine
e prima di mettersi a letto
indugiarsi col vento in faccia a attendere
danzare laggiù sopra un tetto

le incandescenti vertebre dei fulmini
e chiudersi e aprirsi nei campi
su panorami candidi di nuvole
le brecce turchine dei lampi!!

Corrado Govoni

In the sky drafts of desert go by,
the violet night appears,
in the garden the beautiful roses die,
olympically serene.

And there in the fields of plumbeous grain
sounds a horrendous ruckus
like fantastically hellish birds of prey
a flitter of red flashes.

It’s the roar of the storm. Cascades
of black avalanches of thunder;
the rain off roof tiles ricochets
producing a gentle purr.

Lightning-fast across the sky stretch
diabolic metres of fire;
there above the squabbling clouds ragged
flags of crocus shudder.

The shelling passes. On the sodden
now lustrous bright red barn
suddenly the fresh circle opens
of a sporty rainbow.

But it isn’t peace; if the sky is clear
and the arc dispelling, subtle,
below like a leaden candle douter
stands outlined the steeple.

And on the horizon darkness persists
run through by a muffled din,
as in a forgiving heart traces
of bitter acrimony remain.

On the blithe cemetery, tremulous,
come alight unspoiled stars,
come alight luminous lightning-bugs,
and the splendid night falls.

Tender it is to open the panes to the wind
and before going to sleep
to stand face to the breeze and anticipate
the dancing on a rooftop

of lightning’s incandescent vertebrae
and in the fields closing and opening
upon the white displays of clouds
the turquoise breaches of lightning!

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2022

The poem Afa is from the collection “Poesie elettriche” by Corrado Govoni, 1911.

The text presented numerous difficulties; and every time I translate rhyme, I promise myself I’ll write down the problems I have finding the right solution. I obviously never do. I have sheets of paper with different solutions and lists of synonyms shrewn all over my desk and under my chair and on the windowsill…but after I’ve used them, I forget what I used them for.

Translating poetry is something that gives me infinite pleasure; describing the process takes some of that pleasure away. Suffice it to say that the translation is not perfect: it would be better in the hands of someone else, perhaps. I do my best. I base everything on sound. I listen to the original closely (numerous times), and I try to copy the music. Obviously that means changing words and meanings and sacrificing all kinds of things. But translating rhyme is a game, one I love. So bear with me: it’s been an awful year (and it’s only just started). – Matilda

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