Carducci and the green Adige river

Inspired by the Brighton Blogger’s “Italy in books” reading challenge 2011, I’ve digged up this more that 100 year old poem by Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907) in Italian and English.

Carducci was considered the national poet of modern Italy, and he was the first Italian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. This poem appears in the collection of verse called Odi Barbare Di Giosuè Carducci (Italian Edition), and I particularly like the imagery of the green Adige as a poetic force of nature that unites Italy through  space and time to infinity.

Davanti il castel vecchio di Verona
Tal mormoravi possente e rapido
sotto i romani ponti, o verde Adige,
brillando dal limpido gorgo,
la tua scorrente canzone al sole,

quando Odoacre dinanzi a l’impeto
di Teodorico cesse, e tra l’èrulo
eccidio passavan su i carri
diritte e bionde le donne amàle

entro la bella Verona, odinici
carmi intonando: raccolta al vescovo
intorno, l’italica plebe
sporgea la croce supplice a’ Goti.

Tale da i monti di neve rigidi,
ne la diffusa letizia argentea
del placido verno, o fuggente
infaticato, mormori e vai

sotto il merlato ponte scaligero,
tra nere moli, tra squallidi alberi,
a i colli sereni, a le torri,
onde abbrunate piangon le insegne

il ritornante giorno funereo
del primo eletto re da l’Italia
francata: tu, Adige, canti
la tua scorrente canzone al sole.

Anch’io, bel fiume, canto: e il mio cantico
nel picciol verso raccoglie i secoli,
e il cuore al pensiero balzando
segue la strofe che sorge e trema.

Ma la mia strofe vanirà torbida
ne gli anni: eterno poeta, o Adige,
tu ancor tra le sparse macerie
di questi colli turriti, quando

su le rovine de la basilica
di Zeno al sole sibili il còlubro,
ancor canterai nel deserto
i tedi insonni de l’infinito.

9-11 gennaio 1884 ].

adige river

English translation by MW Arms in Poems of Italy

Before the Old Castle of Verona
Green Adige, ’twas thus in rapid course
And powerful, that thou didst murmur ‘neath
The Roman bridges sparkling from thy stream
Thine ever-running song unto the sun,
When Odoacer, giving way before
The onrush of Theodoric, fell back,
And midst the bloody wrack about them passed
Into this fair Verona blond and straight
Barbarian women in their chariots, singing
Songs unto Odin; while the Italian folk
Gathered about their Bishop and put forth
To meet the Goths the supplicating Cross.

Thus from the mountains rigid with their snows,
In all the placid winter’s silver gladness
To-day thou still, O tireless fugitive,
Dost murmuring pass upon thy way, beneath
The Scaligers’ old battlemented bridge,
Betwixt time-blackened piles and squalid trees,
To far-off hills serene, and to the towers
Whence weep the mourning banners for the day,
Returning now, which saw the death of him
Whom a free Italy first chose her king.
Still, Adige, thou singest as of yore
Thine ever-running song unto the sun.

I, too, fair river, sing, and this my song
Would put the centuries into little verse;
And palpitating to each thought, my heart
Follows the stanza’s upward-quivering flight.
But with the years, my verse will dull and fade;
Thou, Adige, the eternal poet art,
Who still when of these hills the turret crown
Is shattered into fragments, and the snake
Sits hissing in the sunlight where now stands
The great basilica, St. Zeno’s fane
Still in the desert solitudes wilt voice
The sleepless tedium of the infinite.

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