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Text / occasion – Pascoli, “Il gelsomino notturno”

On the level of discursive interpretation, the lovely ‘Il gelsomino notturno’ by Giovanni Pascoli offers significantly different ideas depending on whether you know about the circumstances of its composition. Here it is, first in Italian and then in the plain prose translation accompanying it in The Penguin Book of Italian Verse, introduced and edited by George M. Kay:

E s’aprono i fiori notturni
nell’ ora che penso a’ miei cari.
Sono apparse in mezzo ai viburni
le farfalle crepuscolari.

Da un pezzo si tacquero i gridi:
Là sola una casa bisbiglia.
Sotto l’ali dormono i nidi,
come gli occhi sotto le ciglia.

Dai … Continue Reading

Greek Lyric Poetry by M L West

It’s an interesting experience coming to M. L. West’s Greek Lyric Poetry after reading Stanley Lombardo’s and Anne Carson’s Sappho translations. With Lombardo and Carson, in any of the longer fragments and even in short phrases you find yourself reading English words that immediately strike home as living poetry. To be sure, something similar can happen in short snatches in West’s translations, as in these lines addressed to a bridegroom:

How handsome you are with your gentle eyes
and your lovely face all radiant with desire.

West was of course an extremely distinguished classicist, and I can’t judge the relative accuracy … Continue Reading