Count Giacomo Leopardi

(29 June 1798 – 14 June 1837 / Rencanati)

On The Portrait Of A Beautiful Woman, - Poem by Count Giacomo Leopardi


Such _wast_ thou: now in earth below,
Dust and a skeleton thou art.
Above thy bones and clay,
Here vainly placed by loving hands,
Sole guardian of memory and woe,
The image of departed beauty stands.
Mute, motionless, it seems with pensive gaze
To watch the flight of the departing days.
That gentle look, that, wheresoe'er it fell,
As now it seems to fall,
Held fast the gazer with its magic spell;
That lip, from which as from some copious urn,
Redundant pleasure seems to overflow;
That neck, on which love once so fondly hung;
That loving hand, whose tender pressure still
The hand it clasped, with trembling joy would thrill;
That bosom, whose transparent loveliness
The color from the gazer's cheek would steal;
All these _have been_; and now remains alone
A wretched heap of bones and clay,
Concealed from sight by this benignant stone.

To this hath Fate reduced
The form, that, when with life it beamed,
To us heaven's liveliest image seemed.
O Nature's endless mystery!
To-day, of grand and lofty thoughts the source,
And feelings not to be described,
Beauty rules all, and seems,
Like some mysterious splendor from on high
Forth-darted to illuminate
This dreary wilderness;
Of superhuman fate,
Of fortunate realms, and golden worlds,
A token, and a hope secure
To give our mortal state;
To-morrow, for some trivial cause,
Loathsome to sight, abominable, base
Becomes, what but a little time before
Wore such an angel face;
And from our minds, in the same breath,
The grand conception it inspired,
Swift vanishes and leaves no trace.
What infinite desires,
What visions grand and high,
In our exalted thought,
With magic power creates, true harmony!
O'er a delicious and mysterious sea,
The exulting spirit glides,
As some bold swimmer sports in Ocean's tides:
But oh, the mischief that is wrought,
If but one accent out of tune
Assaults the ear! Alas, how soon
Our paradise is turned to naught!

O human nature, why is this?
If frail and vile throughout,
If shadow, dust thou art, say, why
Hast thou such fancies, aspirations high?
And yet, if framed for nobler ends,
Alas, why are we doomed
To see our highest motives, truest thoughts,
By such base causes kindled, and consumed?

Comments about On The Portrait Of A Beautiful Woman, by Count Giacomo Leopardi

  • Rahman Henry (9/12/2015 10:40:00 PM)

    The poem is, in fact, a unique one. I like it. Lovely poem. (Report) Reply

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  • Rahman Henry (9/12/2015 10:40:00 PM)

    Two Italian Authors: Levi and Leopardi, today, for ''POEM OF THE DAY''... It's amazing. And this poem is a unique one. (Report) Reply

  • Kim Barney (9/12/2015 12:40:00 PM)

    Thanks to Fabrizio Frosini for the Italian text below. I don't understand much of it, but it's still prettier than the English translation! (Report) Reply

  • Fabrizio Frosini (9/12/2015 9:16:00 AM)



    Tal fosti: or qui sotterra
    Polve e scheletro sei. Su l'ossa e il fango
    Immobilmente collocato invano,
    Muto, mirando dell'etadi il volo,
    Sta, di memoria solo
    E di dolor custode, il simulacro
    Della scorsa beltà. Quel dolce sguardo,
    Che tremar fe, se, come or sembra, immoto
    In altrui s'affisò; quel labbro, ond'alto
    Par, come d'urna piena,
    Traboccare il piacer; quel collo, cinto
    Già di desio; quell'amorosa mano,
    Che spesso, ove fu porta,
    Sentì gelida far la man che strinse;
    E il seno, onde la gente
    Visibilmente di pallor si tinse,
    Furo alcun tempo: or fango
    Ed ossa sei: la vista
    Vituperosa e trista un sasso asconde.

    Così riduce il fato
    Qual sembianza fra noi parve più viva
    Immagine del ciel. Misterio eterno
    Dell'esser nostro. Oggi d'eccelsi, immensi
    Pensieri e sensi inenarrabil fonte,
    Beltà grandeggia, e pare,
    Quale splendor vibrato
    Da natura immortal su queste arene,
    Di sovrumani fati,
    Di fortunati regni e d'aurei mondi
    Segno e sicura spene
    Dare al mortale stato:
    Diman, per lieve forza,
    Sozzo a vedere, abominoso, abbietto
    Divien quel che fu dianzi
    Quasi angelico aspetto,
    E dalle menti insieme
    Quel che da lui moveva
    Ammirabil concetto, si dilegua.

    Desiderii infiniti
    E visioni altere
    Crea nel vago pensiere,
    Per natural virtù, dotto concento;
    Onde per mar delizioso, arcano
    Erra lo spirto umano,
    Quasi come a diporto
    Ardito notator per l'Oceano:
    Ma se un discorde accento
    Fere l'orecchio, in nulla
    Torna quel paradiso in un momento.

    Natura umana, or come,
    Se frale in tutto e vile,
    Se polve ed ombra sei, tant'alto senti?
    Se in parte anco gentile,
    Come i più degni tuoi moti e pensieri
    Son così di leggeri
    Da sì basse cagioni e desti e spenti?

    (Giacomo Leopardi)

    [The poem, probably written in 1834-'35, in Naples, was first published in Napoli in 1835]
    (Report) Reply

  • Fabrizio Frosini (9/12/2015 8:31:00 AM)

    two Italian Authors (Levi and Leopardi) today, for ''POEM OF THE DAY''.. Thanks, PoemHunter! :)

    Giacomo Leopardi is well known - I think - to many readers at P.H., but probably Primo Levi is not..
    http: //
    (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010

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