Giovanni Pascoli

Translated from the Italian by Geoffrey Brock.


Out in the field, where a few leaves gleam
russet on vines, and the morning mist
lifts from the hedgerows like steam,

they’re plowing: one man goads the slow
cows with slow shouts, one sows, one hits
the ridges with his patient hoe—

already the knowing sparrow thrills,
eyeing it all from his mulberry hold;
and in the hedge, the robin, whose trills
are delicate as drops of gold.


Between embankments on which cattle
graze calmly, the railway runs until
it’s a distant glimmer of brown metal,

and tall poles in file, bearing away
against a pearly sky their airy
weft of wires, steadily decay.

What cries are these that, like a woman’s
moaned lament, rise and descend?
Now and again those metal strands—
vast thrumming harp—keen in the wind.


Dream of a summer’s day…

What a jittery trill
of cicadas! Vine leaves
shrivel and shrill
as the mistral moves
through and away.

Dusty ribbons
of sun among the oaks…
Across the heavens
like white brushstrokes
two faint clouds fray

into the sprawling blue.

A pomegranate hedge,
a tamarisk copse.
A thresher beyond the ridge
that rumbles then stops.
The silvery Angelus, too…

Where am I? The bells
tell me, mournfully,
as a dog howls
at the stranger as he
passes, head bowed, through.

Autumn Evening

Bologna, 1907

Up the steep road they go, a long black flock,
dimming the air they travel slowly through:
the priests, shapeless in the fog, who walk
to San Michele in Bosco for the view.

They walk, and speak among themselves of death.
And all around them dead leaves fall to earth.

Among them fall the dead leaves, one by one.
They go to watch the death-throes of the sun.

Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912) was the greatest Italian poet writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, and he exerted an enormous influence on modern Italian poetry. His chief collections include MyricaeCanti di Castelvecchio, and Primi poemetti.

Geoffrey Brock is the author of Weighing Light and Voices Bright Flags, the editor of The FSG Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry, and the translator of numerous books of Italian poetry and prose. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Arkansas.

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