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Archive for July, 2011

A brief song sung in a minor key is the musical equivalent of this slender offering presented in understated and mannered prose by Gail Willhelm in this stylistically elliptical unfolding of girl meets girl.
It could be claimed that Willhelm dwells rather a little too lingeringly on the ethereal beauty of her protagonist Morgan T, who is almost wraithlike in her lack of corporeality. A tall, slender, pale light haired woman of few words who sustains herself on coffee and cigarettes and to the exclusion of food except for an olive which she only bites but fails to eat.
Willhelm presents Morgen’s feelings as being too deep for words.
She is the sole companion of her valetudinarian father with whom she has lived all her life with almost no other human contact.
Willhelm leaves unexplained all the mundane details of life such as how food appears in the refrigerator, or how the bills are paid.
The first three quarters of the book are about Morgen’s rather drily sterile relationship with her would-be fiancé Royal, who falls slightly hysterically – but unrequitedly in love with her.
The book has a few non-sequitors for which I think the reader is supposed to supply the connective sense by reading between the lines. This may equally have been an oversight as a writerly assertion of a style that is based on lacunæ and omission.
The appearance of Toni as a ‘dea ex machina’ carries the plot to its restrainedly optimistic ending, and this is a fortunate relief for what could have been an unendurably substance-less plot.
The portrait on the back cover of Willhelm herself, a darkly sculpted androgynous profile of chiseled features and a passionately still gaze, is one of the most dramatic things about the book. Her description of Toni ( I had wrongly supposed that the substitution of ‘i’ for ‘y’ in women’s’ names was a modern affectation ) could easily be a stand in for her own strikingly handsome dark hair and intense gaze.
The theme, that it is hopeless and misguided to expect that heterosexuality can be anything but hollow and unnatural to a Lesbian, seems obvious on the face of it, but the unspoken rule is that it can never be believably rejected without giving it every possible opportunity to take.
Nevertheless, after what was tried is found to be not true, we may permit ourselves to expect a tremulously happy ending.

Partners

Gail Wilhelm and her partner of 40 years Helen Hope Rudolph Page

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That Smouldering Look

Like so many people who have read this book and have never been able to forget it, I was instantly captivated by Daphne Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel (published in July of 1951) from the first time I read it as a teenager. Since then I have read and re-read this marvelous book several more times, and I think I have finally managed to put my finger on the hook which was from the very start securely lodged in my cheek.
From the opening chapters an image of Rachel emerged in my imagination as a Franco Zeffirrelli heroine –  a delicate combined portrait of Madame Bovary and Jane Eyre in looks – but painted in   fine Italian chiaroscuro.
In my imagination a streak of light catches Rachel’s very soignèe, very tightly combed and knotted  dark hair, and shows off to its best advantage her beautifully shaped head. I see the simple and exceedingly elegant cut of her black dress, and her dark, suggestive beauty offset by her pale and sensitive hands, and  the creamy flesh of her slender neck emerging above the modest neckline. I see the dark and fading browns and greens of a renaissance landscape with plane trees and cypresses in the background…  I see some of Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’ in her as well… I hear a Donizetti aria or two –  “Regnava Nel Silenzio” and “Una Furtiva Lagrima” –  because of course such passion as she may inspire inevitably compels the headlong rushing in of fools, as well as its predictable aftermath.
But above and beyond all of  that, the most insistent, most confusing, and most disorienting  sound I hear is Phillip’s voice:
It is a voice that comes out of his mouth without ever being his. I now know that this is because it is in fact a woman’s voice. – or more accurately, the voice of a castrato taken over by a woman, – perhaps like that of  Pauline Viardot’s Orpheus singing “J’ai Perdu Mon Eurydice” in a mist of grief and passion. Despite being cast as that epitome of maleness, the English country gentleman, Philips’ voice has the timbre of extreme sexual ambiguity.
As a writer, Daphne du Maurier is a superb ventriloquist, and her throwing of Phillip’s voice quite tricked my cognitive ear, though my intuitive ear was not so easily persuaded. It took me all these many disquieting years to discover that no man could ever speak of a woman in the way Phillip speaks of Rachel, but only a woman who finds others of her own sex a source of confounding fascination, which is to say, a lesbian.
When I construe Phillip as a young dyke, ‘his’ voice, a breaking mezzo/contralto,  fits exactly.
The richness of this book is that it is teeming with the unseen ghosts of literary and cultural symbols   – the ghosts of the Brontës (during whose lifetimes the novel is set), the noble and tormented ghost of Radclyffe Hall’s Stephen, the ghost of Lucrezia Borgia with the whiff of poison clinging to her reputed ring, and perhaps even the tantalising ghost of the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile – the smile which intimates there is something behind it that we could never see.  The atmosphere is filled with the anxious echoes of a past that is persistently insinuating itself into the present.
The chord Du Maurier strikes is rich in resonance and harmonics. It goes on echoing and reverberating, because throughout its long vibration, which in this novel is the tension of a prolonged falling in love, the sound of voice and the image of the speaker appear not to be the same.
Phillip,the first person protagonist, seems completely unable to hear his own voice. Nor does he seem able to grasp the implications of his emotions or his actions. He consistently and unswervingly evinces the bafflement of a young girl who falls in love with another young girl, or a  woman, without ever having the slightest inkling that despite everything they are led to believe about what they should expect to encounter within the strictly heterosexual constraints of conventional romances of the common and garden sort,  girls do in fact fall hopelessly and irrevocably in love with women.

Laburnum

Rachel captivates Phillip from the start, and the secret of her power over him rests in no small part on his utter lack of preparedness for such an encounter. Long before he meets her he has created an unattractive image of her which he is determined to dislike. He is certain that he will be impervious to her. He has no idea that she is the kind of woman who captivates without effort, and with an inescapable finality. Nor does he know he is exactly the kind of person who always falls fatally in love.

Philip has modeled himself so rigidly upon the template of cousin Ambrose, about twenty years his senior, that he is completely purblind to his own love-struck condition. Like a child in grow-up clothes – or rather like a girl who is determined to do a good job of playing a boy’s part in the school play, he has thrown himself into the role, and plays it whole-heartedy and well:  So well indeed that he himself is lost in it.
In fact, the the part of the English country gentleman is very nearly overplayed by him.
The relatively simple and uncomplicated virtues required of him in this part make him an easy read for Rachel, who has behind her the experience of surviving an unstable and precarious childhood and girlhood in the questionable care of her dissolute parents who married her off to a reckless Italian noble by the name of Sangalletti. Now there’s a a name that seems to carry in its sound a bloody (and decidedly un-saintly) harmonic, which turns out to be  quite ironically apposite, since he died in a duel. This wealth of  experience has endowed her with the strategies she needed to survive in a much more dangerous world than a rambling old country house in peaceful Cornwall could ever be.
When Rachel creates an exotic garden paradise in which she and Eve and the Serpent are one, we readers are at once uneasily aware that Phillip, a young girl in boy’s clothing, could never be her match. Ambrose, Phillip’s older cousin who was Rachel’s husband, like the ghost in Hamlet’s, did not survive his marriage, and has died under mysterious circumstances.

Pods of the Laburnum.

Even though deceased Ambrose and androgynous Phillip are central characters; besides a butler, a guardian, a dog, and a dead man, there is not one convincing living and breathing male in this story. Even Rainaldi, Rachel’s  sinister Italian friend and lawyer, with his slight build and waspish manner seems more like a peevish spinster than a real man.

Rachel is the dark lady of Phillip’s sonnets, but she is also the Muse – the Goddess – and as such we know that with her mysterious beauty, her ‘otherness’, elusiveness  and  unattainability  she can never be cast as a wife – at least, not for long. Doom hangs over us all from the start: One imagines that one can hear in Rachel’s and Philip’s dangerous connection the ominous sound of of two tectonic plates dragging against each other on the way to their earth-shattering climax:
I know that reading this book as a young girl, I sensed all of this without ever being able to know or grasp any of it. Like Phillip, without noticing what was happening to me, I too had fallen in love with Rachel right away. Even the very seeds she saved – or hid in her darkly ambiguously sinister manner – had a name suggestive of delicate blossoms and  warm lips – Laburnum….

Rachel my torment….

I have also wondered if there was not also a bit of a modulated Hamlet – Hamlet in a minor key – secreted in the manner in which Du Maurier configures Philip in the plot: Ambrose, the much older husband,  is already deceased when the story begins, and the reason for his death is suspected poisoning. True the finger points more directly at Rachel than at Rainaldi, who is a somewhat distant stand in for the Claudius figure, but both Rachel and Rainaldi stand side by side in the sinister reputations of  duplicitous Italians who tend to disposed of their rivals with undetectable poisons. Philip, for his part loathes and despises  the machiavellian Rainaldi, his vaunted rival, in much the same manner that Hamlet despises his step-father Claudius.

As with Hamlet, there is even the slight shadow of incest in Philips’ hopes of supplanting his father-figure. Ambrose is present in his ghostly form throughout the story.  Philip is waiting to inherit his kingdom. There is even an English Desdemona in Louise – a young and innocent woman who loves Phillip – and she is the daughter of his guardian, the prudent Nick Kendall, who is of course the Polonius figure. Then of course there is the matter of Rachel’s final accident….

Daphne Du Maurier admitted that her inspiration for Rachel was Ellen Doubleday the wife of her American publisher. We shall never know whether or not this particular passion was fulfilled, as was her affair with the famous actress Gertrude Lawrence.
I am now unable to escape the realisation that the ghost in this book was Du Maurier herself, with her impeccable persona of a very proper and very married English lady who nonetheless possessed the incongruous, undeniable, spot-on, pitch-perfect modulation of a lesbian sensibility.

 

 

 

 

Postscript.

Last night (September fifth 2011) I came across this quote of Daphne Du Maurier in a 1977 interview, and it finally confirmed for me something I always knew intuitively….

It was the answer to a question asked by (unnamed) the interviewer

“In My Cousin Rachel, was Rachel good or evil?”

“Lots of people have asked that and, to tell the truth, I don’t know. You see, I was Philip when I wrote the book.”

 

 

 

 

Elaine Dundy in her her wonderful introduction to another Du Maurier book I’ll Never be Young Again, could easily have been referring to the following passage when she described Du Maurier as “One of the great monologists in twentieth-century fiction.  This is the passage in which Philip recalls the first and only night he ever spent with Rachel.

“What happened on those first few hours of my birthday will remain. If there was passion, I have forgotten it. If there was tenderness, it is with me still. Wonder is mine forever that a woman accepting love has no defense. Perhaps this is the secret that they hold to bind us to them. Making reserve of it until the last. I would not know, having no other for comparison. She was my first and last.”

One is hard-pressed in this passage to hear even the trace of a man’s voice:  Instead one hears a wavering double note, that of a young girl discovering a potent and and revelatory nature of lesbian love.  Listen to Propertius expressing the same sentiment in his clear male voice – “ cuncta tuus sepelivit amor, nec femina post te /ulla dedit collo dulcia vincla meo.” – ‘Your love has wedged in the grave all others – nor since you did, has any women placed around my neck as sweet a bond’ –  (my translation.)

Compared to Propertius, in Philip’s utterance pessesses, to my ear at least, the travested, but still unmistakably recognisable voice of a woman.

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Happy Birthday Mr. Graves!

This summer day, the 24th of July, would have been your 117th birthday.

To celebrate it, here is one of your more caustic offerings:

 

 

The Blue Fly

 

 

 

Five summer days, five summer nights,
The ignorant, loutish, giddy blue-fly
Hung without motion on the cling peach
Humming occasionally ‘O my love, my fair one!’
As in the canticles.

Magnified one thousand times, the insect
Looks farcically human; laugh if you will!
Bald head, stage fairy wings, blear eyes,
A caved-in chest, hairy black mandibles,
Long spindly thighs.

The crime was detected on the sixth day.
What then could be said or done? By anyone?
It would have been vindictive, mean, and what-not,
To swat that fly for being a blue-fly,
For debauch of a peach.

Is it fair either, to bring a microscope
To bear on the case, even in search of truth?
Nature, doubtless, has some compelling cause
To glut the carriers of her epidemics –
Nor did the peach complain.

 

 

 

 

And from the Devil….

In Five Short Days: The Devil Replies.

They say it took God seven relentless eons
To proudly sanctify his own creation,
And yet another slow -moving two milennia
Before King Solomon found his inspiration
In the Lily.

Since that scene enacted in the garden, I have noticed
Women will fall predictably in love with blue-flies
Whose odious limbs, bald pates and other defects,
Through sly distraction of our fervid chanting prove
No serious detriment.

My ‘crime’ as you uncharitably put it,
I committed at Her public acquiescence.
She should, I swear have done the shameful deed
With any fly of any other colour.
And would again.

Why vent on poor Beelzebub your peevish venom?
Uncounted women prefer cads to poets –
Nature’s compelling cause, to come in season,
Subsumes itself beneath the whims of creatures
Who fain would  invite decay.

Dia Tsung.

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Italian to English

 

Sopra il Ritratto tr text p1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sopra il Ritratto tr text p2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sopra il Ritratto tr text p3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Formerly in the Salt collection

Portrait of a woman in encaustic on limewood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ON THE PORTRAIT OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN

Thus you were once, who now lie buried:
Dust and skeleton become. Now earth and clay upon your bones are heaped.
Motionless, positioned here in vain,
mute, gazing at the fleeting ages,
endures alone a solitary memory;
a grieving likeness, the sentinel
of beauty now stripped away. Those honeyed looks –
as even now your gaze suggests
which  set at once to trembling
the one they did transfix; Those lips
replete and filled with pleasure to brimming,
the steep waves spilling as from an urn which overflows.
The throat, in former times encircled by desire,
that most beloved hand, which cooled to clasp
the icy-cold and trembling hand it thrilled;
the breast to glance at which it seemed
the gazer with a visible pallor tinged….
That was a time that was. Now you are clay
and bones; a sight
reviled and piteous a stone conceals.

Thus does Fate reduce
what once appeared amongst us to be most vibrant and living….
A celestial image, and the eternal mystery
of our very beings. Today the unstoppable font
of immense exalted thoughts and senses,
and puissant beauty which towers over us,
seeming to thrill with splendour.
The steadfast token and the hope secure
of the immortal nature of our estate
and surpassing  fate,
of fortunes that would reign, and gilded worlds
bestowed upon our mortal nature,
tomorrow, by some slight, contrived pretext
makes defiling to the sight,
transforms what hitherto
had almost an angel seemed,
and from our minds together
that which so moving was:
The admirable conceits which delighted, suddenly vanish.

The infinite desires and lofty visions
created by pervading thoughts
and erudite concepts of intrinsic virtue,
seem as the swells of a delicious arcane sea
amidst which the human spirit drifts and wanders,
almost as an intrepid swimmer
disports himself among the billows.
But should one false note
assail the ear, it vitiates all –
turns paradise to naught within an instant.
How could this be so of human nature?
If it is found in all things to be weak and vile
and merely dust and shadows,
whence such lofty feelings?
But if it is born of something noble and gracious
as our most worthy thoughts and motives,
how could they, by such slight and insubstantial causes,
be by such means as this enkindled and snuffed out?

 

Translation Dia Tsung

Giacomo Leopardi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOPRA IL RITRATTO DI UNA BELLA DONNA.

Tal fosti: or qui sotterra
Polve e scheletro sei. Su l’ossa e il fango
Immobilmente collocato invano,
Muto, mirando dell’etadi il volo,
Sta, di memoria solo
E di dolor custode, il simulacro
Della scorsa beltà. Quel dolce sguardo,
Che tremar fe’, se, come or sembra, immoto
In altrui s’affisò; quel labbro, ond’alto
Par, come d’urna piena,
Traboccare il piacer; quel collo, cinto
Già di desio; quell’amorosa mano,
Che spesso, ove fu porta,
Sentì gelida far la man che strinse;
E il seno, onde la gente
Visibilmente di pallor si tinse,
Furo alcun tempo: or fango
Ed ossa sei: la vista
Vituperosa e trista un sasso asconde.

Così riduce il fato
Qual sembianza fra noi parve più viva
Immagine del ciel. Misterio eterno
Dell’esser nostro. Oggi d’eccelsi, immensi
Pensieri e sensi inenarrabil fonte,
Beltà grandeggia, e pare,
Quale splendor vibrato
Da natura immortal su queste arene,
Di sovrumani fati,
Di fortunati regni e d’aurei mondi
Segno e sicura spene
Dare al mortale stato:
Diman, per lieve forza,
Sozzo a vedere, abominoso, abbietto
Divien quel che fu dianzi
Quasi angelico aspetto,
E dalle menti insieme
Quel che da lui moveva
Ammirabil concetto, si dilegua.

Desiderii infiniti
E visioni altere
Crea nel vago pensiere,
Per natural virtù, dotto concento;
Onde per mar delizioso, arcano
Erra lo spirto umano,
Quasi come a diporto
Ardito notator per l’Oceano:
Ma se un discorde accento
Fere l’orecchio, in nulla
Torna quel paradiso in un momento.

Natura umana, or come,
Se frale in tutto e vile,
Se polve ed ombra sei, tant’alto senti?
Se in parte anco gentile,
Come i più degni tuoi moti e pensieri
Son così di leggeri
Da sì basse cagioni e desti e spenti?

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my first step was to copy the italian text

partial text for “Il Primo Amore”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FIRST LOVE.

1That day returns to my mind  when first I sensed
The fearsome conflict of love, and so exclaimed,
‘Ah me, if this is love, what tribulation!’

2With eyes downcast, intently fixed on the ground,
I then beheld the one who, into this heart,
Guilelessly innocent, opened first the way.

3Oh Love, how reprehensibly you governed me.
But if it’s true that affection is so sweet.
Why must it come bearing such pain and sorrow?

4And not serene, but partial and dissembling,
Indeed replete with lamenting and with woe –
How made its way into  my heart such sheer delight ?

5Tell me, how, tender heart, you being affrighted,
What anguish mingled itself amongst these thoughts
Such that  each joyful thing was changed with tedium?

6Such thoughts in daytime brought with them blandishments,
And offered themselves to you during the night
When all appeared silent in the hemisphere.

7You disquieted me, being joyful and distressed,
Tired and wearied  here beneath the eiderdown
My heart with each passing hour fiercely beating.

8Then when I was in grief, and tired, and gasping,
Eyes closed to sleep as when by a fever seized,
Sleep came shattered, delirious and incomplete.

9Oh how vibrant! in darkness rendered vivid,
Surged that sweet reflection, and with eyes squeezed shut,
I then regarded  her from beneath my lids.

10Oh how filled with these sweetest of diffusions,
With sinuous motions coiled around my bones
A myriad thoughts my soul upset and confused.

11My brooding thoughts turned, as combed through streaming locks,
Within an ancient grove the west wind rustling
Leaves a lingering uncertain murmur in its wake.

12Though I was silent, though I did not protest
What did you say my heart, of her departure,
She for whose sake herein your laboured beating?

13No sooner felt I the touch of burning flames
Of  love, than the small faint trifling breeze
Which had fanned them to life quickly flew away.

14Sleepless I lay, awaiting the day’s dawning:
Listening to the steeds who would soon bereave me,
Stamping their hooves, close by my paternal roof.

15I, Timid, tongue-tied, clumsy and  inexpert,
Gazed from the balcony, leaning into the dark,
Ears tensed to hear, eyes vainly straining,

16 I listened for that voice, that I might once more
Hear it leave her lips, should it not come again –
Her voice, my last bond with her by heaven undone.

17How many times a common voice accosted
My doubting ear, which sending a chill through me,
Then made my heart race, supposing it was hers.

18Soon afterwards, for what would be the final time
I heard her lovely voice, and then the horses,
And then the rumble of the wheels departing.

19Left abandoned and bereft, I curled up tight,
In my bed, with my heart furiously beating,
Pressed my hand down hard upon my chest, and sighed.

20 Forcing my weak and trembling knees to stumble,
Stunned and stupefied within that muted chamber
I asked myself if aught else could touch my heart.

21The bitterest of bitter recollections
Lodged itself deep in my breast and locked it up,
Shutting my heart to every voice and visage.

22And then a prolonged grief searched out my breast
As when poured down the rains from mount Olympus,
And set the fields awash with melancholy.

23 Nor did I, a youth of eighteen, know you then,
Born as I was to this life only to weep,
When you, Love, launched on me then your first assault.

24When I spurned with each pleasure all things pleasant
Such as the smiling stars, or the dawning day
So still and silent, or the verdant meadow.

25Neither could the love of glory now affect me,
Which formerly I had felt warming my breast.
But now mysterious beauty claimed as home.

26Nor did my eyes once again return their gaze
To studies I had loved, which now I found vain,
Even as they had made vain still former loves.

27 However did the many things I had esteemed,
Come to be displaced by this single love?
In truth, how mutable we are wont to be!

28My heart was the only source of my pleasure
In a perennial discourse gravely interred,
To sit invigilating my grief and pain.

29Eyes to the earth bent, withdrawn into themselves,
Covert, controlled yet vague in order to evade,
Looked not at crude nor prepossessing face

30And that spotless, that chaste, unsullied image,
Portrayed deep within my breast I feared to smudge
As sudden gusts at dawn stir ripples on a lake.

31And the regret, my soul was not to revel
Unhindered, to take its fill of pleasant things,
Transmutes all former joys into pure venom.

32Those days long fled retain their power to move me.
This heart within this my breast can yet disclaim
Even the most fleeting touch of mordant shame.

33To heaven and to all you gentle souls I swear,
No base desire ever found ingress in my breast.
The fire that burns within is still unblemished.

34That flame lives still, and lives that same affection –
And breathes still in my thoughts that lovely image.
Nor found I  other joys save in whats holy –

35Hence it alone and nothing else consoles me.

Translation Dia Tsung

Giacomo Leopardi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IL PRIMO AMORE
Tornami a mente il dì che la battaglia
D’amor sentii la prima volta, e dissi:
Oimè, se quest’è amor, com’ei travaglia!

Che gli occhi al suol tuttora intenti e fissi,
Io mirava colei ch’a questo core
Primiera il varco ed innocente aprissi.

Ahi come mal mi governasti, amore!
Perchè seco dovea sì dolce affetto
Recar tanto desio, tanto dolore?

E non sereno, e non intero e schietto,
Anzi pien di travaglio e di lamento
Al cor mi discendea tanto diletto?

Dimmi, tenero core, or che spavento,
Che angoscia era la tua fra quel pensiero
Presso al qual t’era noia ogni contento?

Quel pensier che nel dì, che lusinghiero
Ti si offeriva nella notte, quando
Tutto queto parea nell’emisfero:

Tu inquieto, e felice e miserando,
M’affaticavi in su le piume il fianco,
Ad ogni or fortemente palpitando.

E dove io tristo ed affannato e stanco
Gli occhi al sonno chiudea, come per febre
Rotto e deliro il sonno venia manco.

Oh come viva in mezzo alle tenebre
Sorgea la dolce imago, e gli occhi chiusi
La contemplavan sotto alle palpebre!

Oh come soavissimi diffusi
Moti per l’ossa mi serpeano, oh come
Mille nell’alma instabili, confusi

Pensieri si volgean! qual tra le chiome
D’antica selva zefiro scorrendo,
Un lungo, incerto mormorar ne prome.

E mentre io taccio, e mentre io non contendo,
Che dicevi, o mio cor, che si partia
Quella per che penando ivi e battendo?

Il cuocer non più tosto io mi sentia
Della vampa d’ amor, che il venticello
Che l’aleggiava, volossene via.

Senza sonno io giacea sul dì novello,
E i destrier che dovean farmi deserto,
Battean la zampa sotto al patrio ostello.

Ed io timido e cheto ed inesperto,
Ver lo balcone al buio protendea
L’orecchio avido e l’occhio indarno aperto,

La voce ad ascoltar, se ne dovea
Di quelle labbra uscir, ch’ultima fosse;
La voce, ch’altro il cielo, ahi, mi togliea.

Quante volte plebea voce percosse
Il dubitoso orecchio, e un gel mi prese,
E il core in forse a palpitar si mosse!

E poi che finalmente mi discese
La cara voce al core, e de’ cavai
E delle rote il romorio s’intese;

Orbo rimaso allor, mi rannicchiai
Palpitando nel letto e, chiusi gli occhi,
Strinsi il cor con la mano, e sospirai.

Poscia traendo i tremuli ginocchi
Stupidamente per la muta stanza,
Ch’altro sarà, dicea, che il cor mi tocchi?

Amarissima allor la ricordanza
Locommisi nel petto, e mi serrava
Ad ogni voce il core, a ogni sembianza.

E lunga doglia il sen mi ricercava,
Com’è quando a distesa Olimpo piove
Malinconicamente e i campi lava.

Ned io ti conoscea, garzon di nove
E nove Soli, in questo a pianger nato
Quando facevi, amor, le prime prove.

Quando in ispregio ogni piacer, nè grato
M’era degli astri il riso, o dell’aurora
Queta il silenzio, o il verdeggiar del prato.

Anche di gloria amor taceami allora
Nel petto, cui scaldar tanto solea,
Che di beltade amor vi fea dimora.

Nè gli occhi ai noti studi io rivolgea,
E quelli m’apparian vani per cui
Vano ogni altro desir creduto avea.

Deh come mai da me sì vario fui,
E tanto amor mi tolse un altro amore?
Deh quanto, in verità, vani siam nui!

Solo il mio cor piaceami, e col mio core
In un perenne ragionar sepolto,
Alla guardia seder del mio dolore.

E l’occhio a terra chino o in se raccolto,
Di riscontrarsi fuggitivo e vago
Nè in leggiadro soffria nè in turpe volto:

Che la illibata, la candida imago
Turbare egli temea pinta nel seno,
Come all’aure si turba onda di lago.

E quel di non aver goduto appieno
Pentimento, che l’anima ci grava,
E il piacer che passò cangia in veleno,

Per li fuggiti dì mi stimolava
Tuttora il sen: che la vergogna il duro
Suo morso in questo cor già non oprava.

Al cielo, a voi, gentili anime, io giuro
Che voglia non m’entrò bassa nel petto,
Ch’arsi di foco intaminato e puro.

Vive quel foco ancor, vive l’affetto,
Spira nel pensier mio la bella imago,
Da cui, se non celeste, altro diletto

Giammai non ebbi, e sol di lei m’appago.

GIACOMO LEOPARDI

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