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Younger Brutus

When in the Thracian dust uprooted lay,
  In ruin vast, the strength of Italy,
  And Fate had doomed Hesperia's valleys green,
  And Tiber's shores,
  The trampling of barbarian steeds to feel,
  And from the leafless groves,
  On which the Northern Bear looks down,
  Had called the Gothic hordes,
  That Rome's proud walls might fall before their swords;
  Exhausted, wet with brothers' blood,
  Alone sat Brutus, in the dismal night;
  Resolved on death, the gods implacable
  Of heaven and hell he chides,
  And smites the listless, drowsy air
  With his fierce cries of anger and despair.

  'O foolish virtue, empty mists,
  The realms of shadows, are thy schools,
  And at thy heels repentance follows fast.
  To you, ye marble gods
  (If ye in Phlegethon reside, or dwell
  Above the clouds), a mockery and scorn
  Is the unhappy race,
  Of whom you temples ask,
  And fraudulent the law that you impose.
  Say, then, does earthly piety provoke
  The anger of the gods?
  O Jove, dost thou protect the impious?
  And when the storm-cloud rushes through the air,
  And thou thy thunderbolts dost aim,
  Against the _just_ dost thou impel the sacred flame?
  Unconquered Fate and stern necessity
  Oppress the feeble slaves of Death:
  Unable to avert their injuries,
  The common herd endure them patiently.
  But is the ill less hard to bear,
  Because it has no remedy?
  Does he who knows no hope no sorrow feel?
  The hero wages war with thee,
  Eternal deadly war, ungracious Fate,
  And knows not how to yield; and thy right hand,
  Imperious, proudly shaking off,
  E'en when it weighs upon him most,
  Though conquered, is triumphant still,
  When his sharp sword inflicts the fatal blow;
  And seeks with haughty smile the shades below.

  'Who storms the gates of Tartarus,
  Offends the gods.
  Such valor does not suit, forsooth,
  Their soft, eternal bosoms; no?
  Or are our toils and miseries,
  And all the anguish of our hearts,
  A pleasant sport, their leisure to beguile?
  Yet no such life of crime and wretchedness,
  But pure and free as her own woods and fields,
  Nature to us prescribed; a queen
  And goddess once. Since impious custom, now,
  Her happy realm hath scattered to the winds,
  And other laws on this poor life imposed,
  Will Nature of fool-hardiness accuse
  The manly souls, who such a life refuse?

  'Of crime, and their own sufferings ignorant,
  Serene old age the beasts conducts
  Unto the death they ne'er foresee.
  But if, by misery impelled, they sought
  To dash their heads against the rugged tree,
  Or, plunging headlong from the lofty rock,
  Their limbs to scatter to the winds.
  No law mysterious, misconception dark,
  Would the sad wish refuse to grant.
  Of all that breathe the breath of life,
  You, only, children of Prometheus, feel
  That life a burden hard to bear;
  Yet, would you seek the silent shores of death,
  If sluggish fate the boon delay,
  To you, alone, stern Jove forbids the way.

  'And thou, white moon, art rising from the sea,
  That with our blood is stained;
  The troubled night dost thou survey,
  And field, so fatal unto Italy.
  On brothers' breasts the conqueror treads;
  The hills with fear are thrilled;
  From her proud heights Rome totters to her fall.
  And smilest thou upon the dismal scene?
  Lavinia's children from their birth,
  And all their prosperous years,
  And well-earned laurels, hast thou seen;
  And thou _wilt_ smile, with ray unchanged,
  Upon the Alps, when, bowed with grief and shame,
  The haughty city, desolate and lone,
  Beneath the tread of Gothic hordes shall groan.

  'Behold, amid the naked rocks,
  Or on the verdant bough, the beast and bird,
  Whose breasts are ne'er by thought or memory stirred,
  Of the vast ruin take no heed,
  Or of the altered fortunes of the world;
  And when the humble herdsman's cot
  Is tinted with the earliest rays of dawn,
  The one will wake the valleys with his song,
  The other, o'er the cliffs, the frightened throng
  Of smaller beasts before him drive.
  O foolish race! Most wretched we, of all!
  Nor are these blood-stained fields,
  These caverns, that our groans have heard,
  Regardful of our misery;
  Nor shines one star less brightly in the sky.
  Not the deaf kings of heaven or hell,
  Or the unworthy earth,
  Or night, do I in death invoke,
  Or thee, last gleam the dying hour that cheers,
  The voice of coming ages. I no tomb
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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