On The Portrait Of A Beautiful Woman,

Poem By Count Giacomo Leopardi

CARVED ON HER MONUMENT.


Such _wast_ thou: now in earth below,
Dust and a skeleton thou art.
Above thy bones and clay,
Here vainly placed by loving hands,
Sole guardian of memory and woe,
The image of departed beauty stands.
Mute, motionless, it seems with pensive gaze
To watch the flight of the departing days.
That gentle look, that, wheresoe'er it fell,
As now it seems to fall,
Held fast the gazer with its magic spell;
That lip, from which as from some copious urn,
Redundant pleasure seems to overflow;
That neck, on which love once so fondly hung;
That loving hand, whose tender pressure still
The hand it clasped, with trembling joy would thrill;
That bosom, whose transparent loveliness
The color from the gazer's cheek would steal;
All these _have been_; and now remains alone
A wretched heap of bones and clay,
Concealed from sight by this benignant stone.

To this hath Fate reduced
The form, that, when with life it beamed,
To us heaven's liveliest image seemed.
O Nature's endless mystery!
To-day, of grand and lofty thoughts the source,
And feelings not to be described,
Beauty rules all, and seems,
Like some mysterious splendor from on high
Forth-darted to illuminate
This dreary wilderness;
Of superhuman fate,
Of fortunate realms, and golden worlds,
A token, and a hope secure
To give our mortal state;
To-morrow, for some trivial cause,
Loathsome to sight, abominable, base
Becomes, what but a little time before
Wore such an angel face;
And from our minds, in the same breath,
The grand conception it inspired,
Swift vanishes and leaves no trace.
What infinite desires,
What visions grand and high,
In our exalted thought,
With magic power creates, true harmony!
O'er a delicious and mysterious sea,
The exulting spirit glides,
As some bold swimmer sports in Ocean's tides:
But oh, the mischief that is wrought,
If but one accent out of tune
Assaults the ear! Alas, how soon
Our paradise is turned to naught!

O human nature, why is this?
If frail and vile throughout,
If shadow, dust thou art, say, why
Hast thou such fancies, aspirations high?
And yet, if framed for nobler ends,
Alas, why are we doomed
To see our highest motives, truest thoughts,
By such base causes kindled, and consumed?

Comments about On The Portrait Of A Beautiful Woman,

The poem is, in fact, a unique one. I like it. Lovely poem.
Two Italian Authors: Levi and Leopardi, today, for ''POEM OF THE DAY''... It's amazing. And this poem is a unique one.
Thanks to Fabrizio Frosini for the Italian text below. I don't understand much of it, but it's still prettier than the English translation!
ITALIAN TEXT: ____________ XXXI - SOPRA IL RITRATTO Dl UNA BELLA DONNA SCOLPITO NEL MONUMENTO SEPOLCRALE DELLA MEDESIMA 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? (Giacomo Leopardi) . [The poem, probably written in 1834-'35, in Naples, was first published in Napoli in 1835]
two Italian Authors (Levi and Leopardi) today, for ''POEM OF THE DAY''.. Thanks, PoemHunter! :) Giacomo Leopardi is well known - I think - to many readers at P.H., but probably Primo Levi is not.. http: //www.poemhunter.com/poem/reveille/


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