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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lavandare (Laundresses), by Giovanni Pascoli, English Translation


Portrait of Giovanni Pascoli
San Mauro di Romagna, Dec 31, 1855 – Bologna, April 6, 1912

This year we commemorate the centennial of the great poet's departure—see the Pascoli Foundation (Italian) for events organized throughout 2012 to mark this occasion—and Literary Joint is happy to present the translation in English of one of his most famous poems, Lavandare (Laundresses). It is often reckoned that Pascoli is a tough nut to render in any other language, some suggest it being effectively untranslatable. Yet, we do not think this is necessarily the case...


Laundresses, from Myricae, by Giovanni Pascoli 

In the field half black and half gray
remains a plow without oxes that seems
forgotten, in the steamy air.

And rhythmed by the irrigation ditch comes
the washboard's swash of the laundresses
with thick splashes and long lullabies:

The wind blows and the leaves fall like snow,
and yet you have not returned to your home-place!
since you departed, I have remained so!
like the plow amidst the fallow.

Original text in Italian

Lavandare, da Myricae, di Giovanni Pascoli


Nel campo mezzo grigio e mezzo nero
resta un aratro senza buoi che pare
dimenticato, tra il vapor leggero.

E cadenzato dalla gora viene
lo sciabordare delle lavandare
con tonfi spessi e lunghe cantilene:

Il vento soffia e nevica la frasca,
e tu non torni ancora al tuo paese!
quando partisti, come son rimasta!
come l’aratro in mezzo alla maggese.


  1. The wide use of onomatopoeia by Pascoli is not an obstacle to translation I think. Rhymes have also been rendered well, when possible, with the use of assonances. The translation of a poem has to convey the same emotions to the reader, with the closest allegiance to the original text. I hope to read more of Pascoli's work in English. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for stopping by. Indeed, we will focus on Pascoli again soon. Stay tuned ;0)


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