The Lonely Life

The Lonely Life

by Giacomo Leopardi

The Lonely Life


The morning rain, when, from her coop released,

The hen, exulting, flaps her wings, when from

The balcony the husbandman looks forth,

And when the rising sun his trembling rays

Darts through the falling drops, against my roof

And windows gently beating, wakens me.

I rise, and grateful, bless the flying clouds,

The cheerful twitter of the early birds,

The smiling fields, and the refreshing air.

For I of you, unhappy city walls,

Enough have seen and known; where hatred still

Companion is to grief; and grieving still

I live, and so shall die, and that, how soon!

But here some pity Nature shows, though small,

Once in this spot to me so courteous!

Thou, too, O Nature, turn’st away thy gaze

From misery; thou, too, thy sympathy

Withholding from the suffering and the sad,

Dost homage pay to royal happiness.

No friend in heaven, on earth, the wretched hath,

No refuge, save his trusty dagger’s edge.

Sometimes I sit in perfect solitude,

Upon a hill, that overlooks a lake,

That is encircled quite with silent trees.

There, when the sun his mid-day course hath reached,

His tranquil face he in a mirror sees:

Nor grass nor leaf is shaken by the wind;

There is no ripple on the wave, no chirp

Of cricket, rustling wing of bird in bush,

Nor hum of butterfly; no motion, voice,

Or far or near, is either seen or heard.

Its shores are locked in quiet most profound;

So that myself, the world I quite forget,

As motionless I sit; my limbs appear

To lie dissolved, of breath and sense deprived;

As if, in immemorial rest, they seemed

Confounded with the silent scene around.


O love, O love, long since, thou from this breast

Hast flown, that was so warm, so ardent, once.

Misfortune in her cold and cruel grasp

Has held it fast, and it to ice has turned,

E’en in the flower of my youth. The time

I well recall, when thou this heart didst fill;

That sweet, irrevocable time it was,

When this unhappy scene of life unto

The ardent gaze of youth reveals itself,

Expands, and wears the smile of Paradise.

How throbs the heart within the boyish breast,

By virgin hope and fond desire impelled!

The wretched dupe for life’s hard work prepares,

As if it were a dance, or merry game.

But when I first, O love, thy presence felt,

Misfortune had already crushed my life,

And these poor eyes with constant tears were filled.

Yet if, at times, upon the sun-lit slopes,

At silent dawn, or when, in broad noonday,

The roofs and hills and fields are shining bright,

I of some lonely maiden meet the gaze;

Or when, in silence of the summer night,

My wandering steps arresting, I before

The houses of the village pause, to gaze

Upon the lonely scene, and hear the voice,

So clear and cheerful, of the maiden, who,

Her ditty chanting, in her quiet room,

Her daily task protracts into the night,

Ah, then this stony heart will throb once more;

But soon, alas, its lethargy returns,

For all things sweet are strangers to this breast!


Belovèd moon, beneath whose tranquil rays

The hares dance in the groves, and at the dawn

The huntsman, vexed at heart, beholds the tracks

Confused and intricate, that from their forms

His steps mislead; hail, thou benignant Queen

Of Night! How unpropitious fall thy rays,

Among the cliffs and thickets, or within

Deserted buildings, on the gleaming steel

Of robber pale, who with attentive ear

Unto the distant noise of horses and

Of wheels, is listening, or the tramp of feet

Upon the silent road; then, suddenly,

With sound of arms, and hoarse, harsh voice, and look

Of death, the traveller’s heart doth chill,

Whom he half-dead, and naked, shortly leaves

Among the rocks. How unpropitious, too,

Is thy bright light along the city streets,

Unto the worthless paramour, who picks

His way, close to the walls, in anxious search

Of friendly shade, and halts, and dreads the sight

Of blazing lamps, and open balconies.

To evil spirits unpropitious still,

To me thy face will ever seem benign,

Along these heights, where nought save smiling hills,

And spacious fields, thou offer’st to my view.

And yet it was my wayward custom once,

Though I was innocent, thy gracious ray

To chide, amid the haunts of men, whene’er

It would my face to them betray, and when

It would their faces unto me reveal.

Now will I, grateful, sing its constant praise,

When I behold thee, sailing through the clouds,

Or when, mild sovereign of the realms of air,

Thou lookest down on this, our vale of tears.

Me wilt thou oft behold, mute wanderer

Among the groves, along the verdant banks,

Or seated on the grass, content enough,

If heart and breath are left me, for a sigh!


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