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.