Canti: A Bilingual Editionby Giacomo Leopardi
Giacomo Leopardi is Italy’s greatest modern poet, the first European writer to portray and examine the self in a way that feels familiar to us today. A great classical scholar and patriot, he explored metaphysical loneliness in entirely original and new ways. Though he died young, his influence was enormous, and it is no exaggeration to say that all of modern
Giacomo Leopardi is Italy’s greatest modern poet, the first European writer to portray and examine the self in a way that feels familiar to us today. A great classical scholar and patriot, he explored metaphysical loneliness in entirely original and new ways. Though he died young, his influence was enormous, and it is no exaggeration to say that all of modern poetry, not only in Italian, derives in some way from his work.
Leopardi’s work is notoriously difficult to translate, and he has been less well known to English-language readers than his greatness and influence might suggest. Now Jonathan Galassi, whose translations of Eugenio Montale have been widely acclaimed, has produced a strong, fresh, direct version of this essential work that offers English-language readers a new approach to Leopardi. Galassi has contributed an informative introduction and notes that provide a sense of Leopardi’s sources and ideas. This is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand the roots of modern lyric poetry.
The Washington Post
“Like no other poet, Leopardi captures the subtlest sensations, just before they vanish. His language itself works as a vanishing act: it serves up all the richness of antiquity – gained from years spent steeping in Horace and Virgil – even as tones of skepticism and bitterness begin to eat away at that richness. What makes Jonathan Galassi's translation of Leopardi's poetry so superb is that he understands, and renders, that delicate movement of thought and feeling. Galassi, the author of a magnificent translation of Eugenio Montale's poetry as well as two collections of his own poems, brings Leopardi's "Canti" alive by virtue of a flexible and unpretentious English idiom. Galassi, who is also the president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, strives for accuracy throughout, but above all he works to make his translations living poems. The diction in these versions rightly conjures the 19th century, but never smells of a wax museum … The publication, at last, of a definitive English version of the "Canti" should constitute an event in itself. But this book does something even greater … Now, [Leopardi] may become as important to our own literature as, say, Baudelaire or Rilke, poets of comparable genius, whose work has long been available in fine translations … When the otherwise authoritarian Count Monaldo Leopardi opened his library to his preadolescent son, and allowed the boy to spend whole days there, that small permission changed world literature for good. Who knows? The next great American poet may be a high school girl in Wyoming lucky enough to come across Jonathan Galassi's translation in her own school library.” Peter Campion, The New York Times Book Review
“Over the past half-century American readers have embraced the translated poetry of Rilke, Cavafy, Neruda and Akhmatova. Thanks to Jonathan Galassi's edition of the "Canti," it's Leopardi's turn now.” Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“Because the bitterness of the thoughts in Leopardi's poems is redeemed primarily by the sweetness and purity of the language--what Galassi calls his "impenetrably perfect, sonorous expressiveness"--he presents an unusual challenge for the translator. He is one of those poets who are often said to be untranslatable, and it is remarkable how little he figures in the consciousness of English readers, compared with, say, Baudelaire or Hölderblin...In the face of this challenge, Galassi--who, in addition to being a poet and a translator, is the head of the publishing house Farrar, Straus & Giroux--has taken the tactful and intelligent approach of translating primarily for sense, rather than trying to re-create Leopardi's metres and rhymes.” Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker
“With the help of his detailed notes--he seems to have read everything about Leopardi in several languages--Mr. Galassi's versions offer the reader without Italian the surest possible grasp of Leopardi's poems.” Eric Ormsby, The Wall Street Journal
“Galassi grants the impossibility of transferring Leopardi's musicality into English, yet his versions often have their own swing to them, and they always verify the depiction of Leopardi in the introduction as a discouraged but genuine patriot and a philosophical hapless lover. They reflect, too, the romantic displacement of devotion from God to nature, the distrust of science, the exaltation of eros, and the despair of meaningful change that Matthew Arnold's English harbinger of modernism, "Dover Beach," attests. An absorbing presentation of a literary giant.” Booklist
“Leopardi's most lasting imprint on literature was made by his poetry, begun at the age of eighteen. It is a body of work charged on the one hand with a helpless longing, both sexual and philosophical, and on the other hand by a bitterness that was both personal and political…Since so many of Leopardi's poems are paralleled in his prose, the reader is grateful for Galassi's hundred pages of generous and helpful notes, which do not merely clarify allusions, explain myths, identify landscapes, and so on, but also reproduce (as do Italian critical editions of the poet) comparable passages extracted from the copious prose.” Helen Vendler, The New Republic
“A towering figure among European Romantic poets and a national hero of Italian letters, the tormented, learned, sometimes hyperbolic Leopardi (1798–1837) has inspired other writers--and defied translators--since before his early death: the 41 elegies, odes, love poems, and meditations called Canti lie at the heart of his work . . . To Leopardi's elaborate stanzas Galassi (who has also translated Montale) brings a light touch and a feel for modern speech. This bilingual version comes with copious notes aimed at beginners, informed, but not overwhelmed, by Italian scholarship.” Publishers Weekly
“[Galassi] has a remarkable ear for the dignified pacing of the original, so that I think anyone with even a little knowledge of Italian pronunciation could look over to the left-hand side of the page and catch something of Leopardi's stately severity. I tend to agree with W. S. Merwin's opinion that Galassi's will be the ‘standard version for the language of our time.' As in his Montale translations, Galassi has a knack for finding the least deviation from the literal meaning that will please an Anglophone ear.” Alan Williamson, Los Angeles Review of Books
“For 175 years, English-language readers have been hearing about the greatness of Leopardi's Canti. Now we know why, for at last there is a translator who is up to the task.” Eliot Weinberger
“With this carefully annotated version of the entire Canti--along with Flowers of Evil and Leaves of Grass the most influential poetic collection of the nineteenth century--we have at last not only an excuse but an obligation to read the fiercely learned but also fiercely intimate productions of a great writer whose energies were exhaustively distributed among classical translations, philological studies, and philosophical dialogues. Yet it is these poems that establish the passion and the power of this Italian master, so properly as well as poignantly given here by Jonathan Galassi. What a privilege as well as a joy finally to claim Leopardi, along with Baudelaire and Whitman, for one's own.” Richard Howard
“‘Beyond the borders of Italy,' lamented Italo Calvino years ago, ‘Leopardi simply doesn't exist. There is no way of conveying who he is, no way of defining him in relation to others, or of conveying why he is so important for us . . .' But now, with Jonathan Galassi's lucid translation and informative commentary, Leopardi the poet at last begins to take on palpable existence for the English reader. On one level, Leopardi, like Pindar orMallarmé or Celan, will always be untranslatable, because his haunting music and idiosyncratic language cannot be transported; but in other respects, Galassi's splendid new achievement will, for the non-Italian reader, provide an entry into the incomparable world of one of the greatest lyric poets of the nineteenth century.” Walter Kaiser
“Ever since the age of the great Romantics, the poetry and the lifework of Giacomo Leopardi have remained a kind of enchanted garden in the landscape of Italian poetry. What we have come to know of his dedication, his learning, his circumstances, has all contributed to the mysterious beauty of that garden. His language, rooted in the classics and in the romantic spirit of his age, informs both the beauty and the ineffability of his work. Its distinctive tenor has not proven easy to translate, and for those of us whose first language is English, Jonathan Galassi's long labor of love with Leopardi's poetry is a welcome gift. His translations convey, to an astonishing degree, the tone, the delicacy and depth, the intimacy and passion, of the great originals, making them seem like recent discoveries. The Italian texts are provided on facing pages, and the combination, I expect, will make this a standard version for the language of our time.” W. S. Merwin
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Bilingual edition
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.90(d)
Read an Excerpt
By Giacomo Leopardi
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLCCopyright © 2010 Giacomo Leopardi
All right reserved.
Sempre caro mi fu quest'ermo cone,
E questa siepe, the 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.
This lonely hill was always dear to me,
and this hedgerow, which cuts off the view
of so much of the last horizon.
But sitting here and gazing, I can see
beyond, in my mind's eye, unending spaces,
and superhuman silences, and depthless calm,
till what I feel
is almost fear. And when I hear
the wind stir in these branches, I begin
comparing that endless stillness with this noise:
and the eternal comes to mind,
and the dead seasons, and the present
living one, and how it sounds.
So my mind sinks in this immensity:
and foundering is sweet in such a sea.
LA SERA DEL DÌ DI FESTA
Dolce e chiara è la none e senza vento,
E queta sovra i tetti e in mezzo agli orti
Posa la luna, e di lontan rivela
Serena ogni montagna. O donna mia,
Gia tace ogni sentiero, e pei balconi
Rara traluce la notturna lampa:
Tu dormi, the t'accolse agevol sonno
Nelle tue chete stanze; e non ti morde
Cura nessuna; e già non sai nè pensi
Quanta piaga m'apristi in mezzo al petto.
Tu dormi: io questo ciel, the sì benigno
Appare in vista, a salutar m'affaccio,
E l'antica natura onnipossente,
Che mi fece all'affanno. A to la speme
Nego, mi disse, anche la speme; e d'altro
Non brillin gli occhi tuoi se non di pianto.
Questo di fu solenne: or da' trastulli
Prendi riposo; e forse ti rimembra
In sogno a quanti oggi piacesti, e quanti
Piacquero a te: non io, non già ch'io speri,
Al pensier ti ricorro. Intanto io chieggo
Quanto a viver mi resti, e qui per terra
THE EVENING OF THE HOLIDAY
The night is soft and bright and without wind,
and the moon hangs still above the roofs
and kitchen gardens, showing every mountain
clear in the distance. O my lady,
every lane is quiet now, and night lights
glow in the windows only here and there.
You sleep, for sleep came easily to you
in your still room. No worry troubles you,
nor can you imagine
what a wound you opened in my heart.
Yes, you sleep, while I come to my window
to salute this sky that seems so kind,
and eternal, all-commanding nature
who created me for suffering.
I deny you hope, she told me, even hope;
let your eyes never shine except with tears.
This was a holiday. Tonight you rest
from play, and maybe in your sleep
you dream of all the men you charmed today,
and those who charmed you, too; but I don't come to mind,
not that I hoped to. So I ask myself
what's left in life for me,
O graziosa luna, io mi rammento
Che, or volge l'anno, sovra questo cone
Io venia pien d'angoscia a rimirarti:
E to pendevi alloy su quella selva
Siccome or fai, the tuna la rischiari.
Ma nebuloso e tremulo dal pianto
Che mi sorgea sul ciglio, alle mie luci
Il tuo volto apparia, the travagliosa
Era mia vita: ed è, nè cangia stile,
O mia diletta luna. E pur mi giova
La ricordanza, e il noverar l'etate
Del mio dolore. Oh come grato occorre
Nel tempo giovanil, quando ancor lungo
La speme e breve ha la memoria il corso,
Il rimembrar delle passate cose,
Ancor the triste, e the l'affanno duri!
TO THE MOON
O graceful moon, I can remember, now
the year has turned, how, filled with anguish,
I came here to this hill to gaze at you,
and you were hanging then above those woods
the way you do now, lighting everything.
But your face was cloudy,
swimming in my eyes, due to the tears
that filled them, for my life
was torment, and it is, it doesn't change,
beloved moon of mine.
And yet it helps me, thinking back, reliving
the time of my unhappiness.
Oh in youth, when hope has a long road ahead
and the way of memory is short,
how sweet it is remembering what happened,
though it was sad, and though the pain endures!
LA QUIETE DOPO LA TEMPESTA
Passata è la tempesta:
Odo augelli far festa, e la gallina,
Tornata in su la via,
Che ripete il suo verso. Ecco il sereno
Rompe là da ponente, alla montagna;
Sgombrasi la campagna,
E chiaro nella vane il fiume appare.
Ogni cor si rallegra, in ogni lato
Risorge il romorio
Torna il lavoro usato.
L'artigiano a mirar l'umido cielo,
Con l'opra in man, cantando,
Fassi in su l'uscio; a prova
Vien fuor la femminetta a cor dell'acqua
Della novella piova;
E l'erbaiuol rinnova
Di sentiero in sentiero
Il grido giornaliero.
Ecco il Sol the ritorna, ecco sorride
Per li poggi e le vine. Apre i balconi,
Apre terrazzi e logge la famiglia:
E, dalla via corrente, odi lontano
Tintinnio di sonagli; il carro stride
Del passegger the il suo cammin ripiglia.
Si rallegra ogni core.
Sì dolce, sì gradita
Quand'è, com'or, la vita?
Quando con tanto amore
L'uomo a' suoi studi intende?
O torna all'opre? o cosa nova imprende?
Quando de' mali suoi men si ricorda?
Piacer figlio d'affanno;
Gioia vana, ch'è frutto
Del passato timore, onde si scosse
E paventò la morte
Chi la vita abborria;
Onde in lungo tormento,
Fredde, tacite, smorte,
Sudàr le genti e palpitàr, vedendo
Mossi alle nostre offese
Folgori, nembi e vento.
O natura cortese,
Son questi i doni tuoi,
Questi i diletti sono
Che to porgi ai mortali. Uscir di pena
E diletto fra noi.
Pene to spargi a larga manor il duolo
Spontaneo sorge: e di piacer, quel tanto
Che per mostro e miracolo talvolta
Nasce d'affanno, è gran guadagno. Umana
Prole cara agli eterni! assai felice
Se respirar ti lice
D'alcun dolor: beata
Se to d'ogni dolor morte risana.
THE CALM AFTER THE STORM
The storm is over:
I hear birds rejoicing, and the hen
is back in the road,
repeating her song. See, brightness
breaks through in the west, above the hills.
The countryside unveils,
and the river shimmers in the valley.
Every heart is happy,
and everywhere the hum revives,
the day's work starts anew.
The artisan comes to his door
singing, with his work in hand,
and stares up at the glistening sky. The young girl
rushes out to gather
and the vegetable seller shouts
his daily shout again
from lane to lane.
Here's the Sun returning, see him smile
on hills and farms. The servants
open windows, terraces, and loggias.
And from the highway I can hear
bells chiming in the distance; the carriage screams
as the traveler sets off again.
Every heart is happy.
When is life as sweet,
as much enjoyed as now?
When does a man attend to what he does
with such devotion?
Return to work, or take up something new?
When is he less conscious of his troubles?
Pleasure, child of suffering,
empty joy, effect
of dread that's past
which made the man who hated life
tremble with fear of death,
which turned the people
cold and mute and pale
and made them sweat and shiver in long torment
seeing lightning, clouds, and wind
arrayed against us.
O gentle Nature,
these are what you give us,
these are the delights
you offer mortals. Surcease from suffering
is happiness for us.
You dole pain with a liberal hand: grieving
rises spontaneous, and the brief enjoyment
that now and then by miracle and marvel
is born of anguish, is great gain.
Race of men beloved of the immortals!
Happy indeed if you're allowed
relief from sorrow, blessed when
death cures you of all sorrow.
"Excerpted from CANTI: Poems by Giacomo Leopardi, translated by Jonathan Galassi, published in November 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by Jonathan Galassi. All rights reserved."
Excerpted from Canti by Giacomo Leopardi Copyright © 2010 by Giacomo Leopardi. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Giacomo Leopardi was born in Ricanti, Italy, in 1798. He was a poet, essayist, philosopher, and philologist. He died in 1837.
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