From the Pisgah Ledge, Blue Ridge Parkway, October 2009.
In the Fog by Giovanni Pascoli
I stared into the valley: it was gone— wholly submerged! A vast flat sea remained, gray, with no waves, no beaches; all was one.
And here and there I noticed, when I strained, the alien clamoring of small, wild voices: birds that had lost their way in that vain land.
And high above, the skeletons of beeches, as if suspended, and the reveries of ruins and of the hermit’s hidden reaches.
And a dog yelped and yelped, as if in fear, I knew not where nor why. Perhaps he heard strange footsteps, neither far away nor near—
echoing footsteps, neither slow nor quick, alternating, eternal. Down I stared, but I saw nothing, no one, looking back.
The reveries of ruins asked: “Will no one come?” The skeletons of trees inquired: “And who are you, forever on the go?”
I may have seen a shadow then, an errant shadow, bearing a bundle on its head. I saw—and no more saw, in the same instant.
All I could hear were the uneasy screeches of the lost birds, the yelping of the stray, and, on that sea that lacked both waves and beaches,
the footsteps, neither near nor far away.
Translated by Geoffrey Brock
Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912) published his ﬁrst book of poems, Myricae, in 1891. In his best work, scattered through editions of Myricae, Poemetti, and Canti di Castelvecchio, his plainer style offers an antidote of sorts to the rhetoric and grandeur of Carducci and D’Annunzio, the other two members of the poetic triad that stands at the threshold of twentieth-century Italian poetry. His youth was a gauntlet of family tragedies (as well known in Italy as his poems) that shadowed his life and his work. He was a major influence on the Crepuscolari (twilight poets) and on Saba, Pasolini, and others.