To His Lady


Beloved beauty who inspires
love in me from afar, your face obscured
except when your celestial image
stirs my heart in sleep, or in the fields
where light and nature's laughter shine more lovely –
was it maybe you who blessed
the innocent age called golden,
and do you now, blithe spirit,
fly among men? Or does that miser fate
who hides you from us save you for the future?

No hope of seeing you alive
remains for me now,
except when, naked and alone,
my soul will go down a new street
to its unknown home. Already at the dawn
of my dark, uncertain day
I imagined you a fellow traveler
on this arid ground. But there's no thing
that resembles you on earth. And if someone
had a face like yours, in act and word she'd be,
though something like you, far less beautiful.

In spite of all the suffering
fate decreed for human time,
if there were anyone on earth
who truly loved you as my thought depicts you
this life for him would be a blessing.
And I see clearly how your love
would lead me still to strive for praise and virtue,
as I used to in my early years.
Though heaven gave no comfort for our troubles,
yet with you mortal life would be
like what in heaven leads to divinity.

In the valleys, where the song
of the weary farmer sounds,
and when I sit and mourn
the illusions of youth fading,
and on the hills where I recall
and grieve for my lost desires
and my life's lost hope, I think of you
and start to shake. If only I, in this
sad age and unhealthy atmosphere,
could keep hold of your noble look; for since the real thing's
missing I must make do with the image.

Whether you are the only one
of the eternal ideas eternal wisdom
refuses to see arrayed in sensible form
to know the pains of mortal life
in transitory spoils,
or if in the supernal spheres another earth
from among unnumbered worlds receives you
and a near star lovelier than the Sun
warms you and you breathe benigner ether,
from here, where years are both ill-starred and brief,
accept this hymn from your unnoticed lover.


                        Italian; trans. Jonathan Galassi


Giacomo Leopardi, Italian, trans. Jonathan Galassi, Poetry, The Poetry Foundation, April, 2008.