Giacomo Leopardi: Canti XIV Alla Luna

Translated by Steven Willett

image from


O gracious moon, I remember

now, at the year’s turning, how on this hill

I came full of anguish to contemplate you:

and you, suspended then over these woods

as you are now, illumined everything.

But nebulous and trembling from the tears

that welled from my eyelids, your face

appeared to my eyes, so full of torment

my life was: and is, and stays unchanged,

O my beloved moon. And yet comforts me

the memory, and recollecting the age

of my grief. Oh how welcome it comes

in the time of youth, while still long

is hope and memory brief in course,

the remembrance of those past events,

though sad, and anguish still endures.

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6 Responses to Giacomo Leopardi: Canti XIV Alla Luna

  1. Deap says:

    Poetry asks one to slow down, read and feel each word, listen to the music of the words as well as the content — compare and contrast to these following comments that our real affliction today is not “covid”, but Information Age twitteritis:
    …………..” As IT professional Alexander Scipio writes, the political, social, and economic devastation we are suffering is not caused by a virus “with a survival rate of well over 99%,” but by a political and financial class—international oligarchs—seeking absolute power via “a weaponized virus from China.”
    But we go along with it, dutifully obeying the mandates, as if we were characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream bewitched by fairies and spells. “Shall we their fond pageant see? Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
    “We as a society are becoming ever less bookish,” writes the great Theodore Dalrymple, which means we are becoming ever less informed, ever less knowledgeable, ever less educated.
    Indeed, we are on the whole ever more incurious and credulous, which is no doubt the permanent condition and status of the majority of human beings—except that never in the history of mankind has the accessible intellectual horizon broadened, at least potentially, to the extent that it has today: university education on offer for all, books readily available, libraries, museums, theaters, concert halls (pre-lockdown) open to the public, a World Wide Web and computers proliferating as domestic items.
    And yet studies suggest that genuine IQ is deteriorating, people are as gullible as ever, and mob psychology and identity politics are increasingly replacing the independent thought of the questing individual. One might call it Twitteritis
    …………….. (PJ Media)

  2. Steven Willett says:

    Thanks ISL for your comment. Those who enjoyed Alla Luna might like to read Leopardi’s La Ginestra, his next-to-last poem, longest and in my view greatest. It has an almost cinematic description of the volcanic destruction of Pompeii. Here’s link, but beware, it is 12 pages long in English:

  3. English Outsider says:

    I found a translation of La Ginestra on a site called the Poet Hunter. Since Leopardi was, I must confess, little more than a name to me thanks for pointing the way to it. And thank you also for the translation above.
    Speaking of the Italian writers and poets generally it seems to me they lost traction over here around Leopardi’s time. In eighteenth century English writing they are referred to very often. I do not find them spoken of so much in the subsequent century. Does this reflect only my own experience, or is it the case that they became less central to us?

  4. Steven Willett says:

    The Poet Hunter translation of La Ginestra is a very poor sloppy version without proper formatting into verse paragraphs. The link I supplied is to my translation published by Arion Journal of Humanities and the Classics. It is the only version with sentence-by-sentence recreation into English. And it even has a picture of the flower. The influence of Petrarch and Boccaccio among other Italian writers was great in England during the renaissance, but I haven’t seen any sign of interest in Leopardi during the romantic period. Even now he is relatively unknown in the US and England. Part of the problem is understanding him. His syntactical structures and manipulation of Latin-Greek etymologies is so difficult that the Italians require modern translations into their contemporary language. Every major poem in the Canti has one or more periphrases with commentaries to help Italians comprehend him.

  5. Kilo 4/11 says:

    Many thanks, Mr. Willett, and to our host for inviting you. I doubt I ever would have heard of Leopardi absent your post. Now I can continue to shirk my duty to read Manzoni’s endless novel with the excuse that at least I am reading shorter pieces by another Italian great!

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