Giovanni Pascoli

(31 December 1855 - 6 April 1912 / San Mauro di Romagna)

XXIII. The Truth

And there was a flowering garden in the sea,
in a sea glossy as the sky; and a song
of two Sirens did not resound yet,
because the meadow was distant.
And the old hero felt a strong premonition,
a current running in the calm sea,
pushing the boat toward the Sirens;
and he told the men to raise their oars:
“The ship turns away from them now, friends!
But don't worry that the roar of the rowing
disturbs the songs of the Sirens. By now
we should hear them. Listen to the song
calmly, your arms on the oarlocks.”
And the current running quiet and smooth
pushes the ship forward more and more.
And the godlike Odysseus sees at the top
of the blooming island, the Sirens,
stretched out among the flowers, heads
erect, upright on idle elbows, watching
the rosy sun rising across from them;
watching, motionless; and their long shadows
were stripes across the island of flowers.
'Are you sleeping? The dawn has passed
already. Already eyes under delicate brows
look for the sun. Sirens, I am still mortal.
I heard you, but I could not stop.”
And the current ran on, quiet and smooth,
pushing the ship forward more and more.
And the old man sees the two Sirens,
their eyebrows raised high above their pupils,
gazing straight ahead, at the fixed sun,
or at him, in his black ship.
And over the unchanging calm of the sea,
a voice rises from him, deep and sure,
'I am he! I’ve returned, to learn!
I am here, as you see me now.
Yes; all that I see in the world
regards me; questions me: asks me what I am.”
And the current ran on, quiet and smooth,
pushing the ship forward more and more.
And the old man sees a great pile of bones
men's bones, and shriveled skin near them,
close to the Sirens, stretched out,
motionless, on the shore, like two reefs.
“I see. Let it be. You may be innocent. But
how much this hard pile of bones
has grown. Speak, you two.
Tell me the truth, to me alone,
of all men, before I doubt that I have lived!”
And the current ran on, quiet and smooth,
pushing the ship forward more and more.
And the ship thrust itself high, and above,
the brows of the two Sirens with the fixed eyes looked on.
'I will have but a moment. I beg
you! At least tell me what I am, what I will be.”
And between the two reefs the ship was shattered.

Submitted: Saturday, December 31, 2011

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