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The Ginestra,


Here, on the arid ridge
Of dead Vesuvius,
Exterminator terrible,
That by no other tree or flower is cheered,
Thou scatterest thy lonely leaves around,
O fragrant flower,
With desert wastes content. Thy graceful stems
I in the solitary paths have found,
The city that surround,
That once was mistress of the world;
And of her fallen power,
They seemed with silent eloquence to speak
Unto the thoughtful wanderer.
And now again I see thee on this soil,
Of wretched, world-abandoned spots the friend,
Of ruined fortunes the companion, still.
These fields with barren ashes strown,
And lava, hardened into stone,
Beneath the pilgrim's feet, that hollow sound,
Where by their nests the serpents coiled,
Lie basking in the sun,
And where the conies timidly
To their familiar burrows run,
Were cheerful villages and towns,
With waving fields of golden grain,
And musical with lowing herds;
Were gardens, and were palaces,
That to the leisure of the rich
A grateful shelter gave;
Were famous cities, which the mountain fierce,
Forth-darting torrents from his mouth of flame,
Destroyed, with their inhabitants.
Now all around, one ruin lies,
Where thou dost dwell, O gentle flower,
And, as in pity of another's woe,
A perfume sweet thou dost exhale,
To heaven an offering,
And consolation to the desert bring.
Here let him come, who hath been used
To chant the praises of our mortal state,
And see the care,
That loving Nature of her children takes!
Here may he justly estimate
The power of mortals, whom
The cruel nurse, when least they fear,
With motion light can in a moment crush
In part, and afterwards, when in the mood,
With motion not so light, can suddenly,
And utterly annihilate.
Here, on these blighted coasts,
May he distinctly trace
'The princely progress of the human race!'

Here look, and in a mirror see thyself,
O proud and foolish age!
That turn'st thy back upon the path,
That thought revived
So clearly indicates to all,
And this, thy movement retrograde,
Dost _Progress_ call.
Thy foolish prattle all the minds,
Whose cruel fate thee for a father gave,
Besmear with flattery,
Although, among themselves, at times,
They laugh at thee.
But I will not to such low arts descend,
Though envy it would be for me,
The rest to imitate,
And, raving, wilfully,
To make my song more pleasing to thy ears:
But I will sooner far reveal,
As clearly as I can, the deep disdain
That I for thee within my bosom feel;
Although I know, oblivion
Awaits the man who holds his age in scorn:
But this misfortune, which I share with thee,
My laughter only moves.
Thou dream'st of liberty,
And yet thou wouldst anew that thought enslave,
By which alone we are redeemed, in part,
From barbarism; by which alone
True progress is obtained,
And states are guided to a nobler end.
And so the truth of our hard lot,
And of the humble place
Which Nature gave us, pleased thee not;
And like a coward, thou hast turned thy back
Upon the light, which made it evident;
Reviling him who does that light pursue,
And praising him alone
Who, in his folly, or from motives base,
Above the stars exalts the human race.

A man of poor estate, and weak of limb,
But of a generous, truthful soul,
Nor calls, nor deems himself
A Croesus, or a Hercules,
Nor makes himself ridiculous
Before the world with vain pretence
Of vigor or of opulence;
But his infirmities and needs
He lets appear, and without shame,
And speaking frankly, calls each thing
By its right name.
I deem not _him_ magnanimous,
But simply, a great fool,
Who, born to perish, reared in suffering,
Proclaims his lot a happy one,
And with offensive pride
His pages fills, exalted destinies
And joys, unknown in heaven, much less
On earth, absurdly promising to those
Who by a wave of angry sea,
Or breath of tainted air,
Or shaking of the earth beneath,
Are ruined, crushed so utterly,
As scarce to be recalled by memory.
But truly noble, wise is _he_,
Who bids his brethren boldly look
Upon our common misery;
Who frankly tells the naked truth,
Acknowledging our frail and wretched state,
And all the ills decreed to us by Fate;
Who shows himself in suffering brave and strong,
Nor adds unto his miseries
Fraternal jealousies and strifes,
The hardest things to bear of all,
Reproaching man with his own grief,
But the true culprit
Who, in our birth, a mother is,
A f
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:50 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 4,202
Words 765
Stanzas 4
Stanza Lengths 1, 52, 39, 38

Count Giacomo Leopardi

Giacomo Taldegardo Francesco di Sales Saverio Pietro Leopardi was an Italian philosopher, poet, essayist, and philologist. He is considered the greatest Italian poet of the nineteenth century and one of the most important figures in the literature of the world, as well as one of the principals of literary romanticism; his constant reflection on existence and on the human condition—of sensuous and materialist inspiration—has also earned him a reputation as a deep philosopher. He is widely seen as one of the most radical and challenging thinkers of the 19th century but routinely compared by Italian critics to his older contemporary Alessandro Manzoni despite expressing "diametrically opposite positions." Although he lived in a secluded town in the conservative Papal States, he came into contact with the main ideas of the Enlightenment, and through his own literary evolution, created a remarkable and renowned poetic work, related to the Romantic era. The strongly lyrical quality of his poetry made him a central figure on the European and international literary and cultural landscape. more…

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    "The Ginestra," Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 24 Mar. 2023. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/7309/the-ginestra,>.

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