Giacomo Leopardi L’infinito
Translated by Steven J. Willett
This is the original manuscript of L’infinito written in 1818 when the poet was 22.
Note: While the poem can be given a highly negative interpretation, I think this is a distorted view of the climax with its use of the untranslatable metaphor “al naufrago.” It has always seemed to me since I read the poem in my teens to be an immersion into infinite consciousness. That of course can, as anyone who has long practiced Zazen (座禅 ‘seated meditation’), be an initial sense of fear. It soon vanishes into complete unity.
Always was dear to me this lonely hill,
And this hedge, that from so large a stretch
Of the extreme horizon excludes the view.
But sitting here and gazing, interminate
Spaces far beyond that, superhuman
Silences, and the profoundest quiet
I fashion in my thought; where nearly
The heart is not afraid. And as the wind
I hear blustering among these branches, that
Infinite silence with this voice of wind
Comparing: and the eternal comes to mind,
And the mortal seasons, and the present one
That lives, and the sound of it. Thus in this
Immensity my mind sinks down to drown:
And sweet to me is foundering in this sea.
Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle,
E questa siepe, che da tanta parte
Dell’ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati
Spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani
Silenzi, e profondissima quiete
Io nel pensier mi fingo; ove per poco
Il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
Odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
Infinito silenzio a questa voce
Vo comparando: e mi sovvien l’eterno,
E le morte stagioni, e la presente
E viva, e il suon di lei. Così tra questa
Immensità s’annega il pensier mio:
E il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare.