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432 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1320
Amore di lontananzaShe wrote it in 1929, when she was only seventeen. Nine years later, she was dead.
Ricordo che, quand'ero nella casa
della mia mamma, in mezzo alla pianura,
avevo una finestra che guardava
sui prati. In fondo, l'argine boscoso
nascondeva il Ticino e, ancor più in fondo,
c'era una striscia scura di colline.
Io allora non avevo visto il mare
che una sol volta, ma ne conservavo
un'aspra nostalgia da innamorata.
Verso sera fissavo l'orizzonte
socchiudevo un po' gli occhi. Accarezzavo
i contorni e i colori tra le ciglia:
e la striscia dei colli si spianava,
tremula, azzurra: a me pareva il mare
e mi piaceva più del mare vero.
Love of distance
I remember, when in my mother’s house,
in the middle of the plain, I had
a window that looked onto
the meadows; far off, the wooded bank
hid the Ticino and, further on,
there was a dark line of hills.
Back then I’d only seen the sea
one time, but preserved of it
a sharp nostalgia as when in love.
Towards evening I stared at the skyline;
narrowed my eyes a little; caressed
outlines and colours between my lids;
and the line of hills flattened out,
trembling, azure: and seemed the sea to me
and pleased me more than the real sea.
Midway this way of life we're bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.
Ay me! how hard to speak of it—that rude
And rough and stubborn forest! the mere breath
Of memory stirs the old fear in the blood;
It is so bitter, it goes nigh to death;
Yet there I gained such good, that, to convey
The tale, I'll write what else I found therewith.
A long way round we had to navigate
Before we came to where the ferryman
Roared: 'Out with you now, for here's the gate!'
Thousand and more, thronging the barbican,
I saw, of spirits fallen from Heaven, who cried
Angrily: 'Who goes there? why walks this man,
Undead, the kingdom of the dead?' My guide,
Wary and wise, made signs to them, to show
He sought a secret parley. Then their pride
Abating somewhat, they called out: 'Why, so!
Come thou within, and bid that fellow begone—
That rash intruder on our realm below.
A place made dumb of every glimmer of light,
Which bellows like tempestuous ocean birling
In the batter of a two-way wind's buffet and fight.
The blast of hell that never rests from whirling
Harries the spirits along in the sweep of its swath,
And vexes them, for ever beating and hurling.
When they are borne to the rim of the ruinous path
With cry and wail and shriek they are caught by the gust,
Railing and cursing the power of the Lord's wrath.
Into this torment carnal sinners are thrust,
So I was told—the sinners who make their reason
Bond thrall under the yoke of their lust.
I thought I saw a shady mass appear;
Then shrank behind my leader from the blast,
Because there was no other cabin here.
I stood (with fear I write it) where at least
The shades, quite covered by the frozen sheet,
Gleamed through the ice like straws in crystal glassed;
Some lie at length and others stand in it,
This one upon his head, and that upright,
Another like a bow bent to feet.
Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood. How shall I say
what wood that was! I never saw so drear,
so rank, so arduous a wilderness!
Its very memory gives a shape to fear.
Death could scarce be more bitter than that place!
But since it came to good, I will recount
all that I found revealed there by God’s grace.
How I came to it I cannot rightly say,
so drugged and loose with sleep had I become
when I first wandered there from the True Way.
But at the far end of that valley of evil
whose maze had sapped my very heart with fear!
I found myself before a little hill
and lifted up my eyes. Its shoulders glowed
already with the sweet rays of that planet
whose virtue leads men straight on every road,
and the shining strengthened me against the fright
whose agony had wracked the lake of my heart
through all the terrors of that piteous night.
MIDWAY upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say What was this forest savage, rough, and stern, Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more; But of the good to treat, which there I found, Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
I cannot well repeat how there I entered, So full was I of slumber at the moment In which I had abandoned the true way.
But after I had reached a mountain’s foot, At that point where the valley terminated, Which had with consternation pierced my heart,
Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders, Vested already with that planet’s rays Which leadeth others right by every road.
Then was the fear a little quieted That in my heart’s lake had endured throughout The night, which I had passed so piteously.
Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh—
the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
But to set forth the good I found
I will recount the other things I saw.
How I came there I cannot really tell,
I was so full of sleep
when I forsook the one true way.
But when I reached the foot of a hill,
there where the valley ended
that had pierced my heart with fear,
looking up, I saw its shoulders
arrayed in the first light of the planet
that leads men straight, no matter what their road.
Then the fear that had endured
in the lake of my heart, all the night
I spent in such distress, was calmed.