Giovanni Pascoli

It occurred to me that when we talk about Tuscany and particularly Barga, we often refer to things that can be seen and touched. We write about the great mountains, La Pania as seen from Sommocolonia, il Duomo capping the city like a king’s crown, the beautiful church in Loppia hidden by a torrent running through “il Fosso”. Sometime we refer to historical happenings, but time and interest limit our forays in this area. There is just too much history, too many people’s lives intertwined on a long rope, with us at the end.

The geographical beauty of the area is somewhat easy to portray; great painters, cameras and the words of millions of visitors have given us a rough outline, but since the written word exists, through the centuries, man has relied on the art of the poets to capture the essence of the subjects being described.

In Barga we were particularly lucky; Giovanni Pascoli chose Barga as his home and refuge, where he felt he could rebuild the family that he so much wanted. The house, gardens and even the wood burning oven are still there, kept very much as when they were last used with his sister Mariu`. For those that don’t know him he was one of the greatest craftsman of the Italian language. His poems are required learning in all Italian schools. In a beautiful spring morning, regardless where we are, very few Italians resist the temptation to recite his poem “L’Aquilone”.

“C’e` qualcosa di nuovo oggi nel sole, anzi d’antico; Io vivo altrove e sento che intorno sono nate le viole........”

“ Today there is something new in the sun, actually old ; I live away , but feel the violets blooming around .....”

When he wrote a poem about Barga, he ignored the beautiful churches and monuments and people, but concentrated his attention to a moment in time .... when the great bells of the Duomo toll the HOUR .....when you think about it, only Pascoli could have chosen that subject and describe it.

Lo scribbacchino

The enclosed poem, l’Ora di Barga, “Barga’s Hour” is part of a group of poems called “Canti di Castelvecchio”.

I had never translated a poem before, so I ask Pascoli, but mostly all of you to forgive the quality of my effort. Everyone knows that engineers don’t fool around with poems! I also would like your opinion as to its value to the group.


Barga’s Hour – Canti di Castelvecchio

Poem by Giovanni Pascoli

From my small corner, where I cannot hear
other than the rustle of wheat stems
the sound of the hours is carried by the wind
moving through the hidden mountain village;
a bland sound, that lightly falls
like a winning voice.
You say It’s time; you say, It’s late,
voice that sweetly falls from the sky,
But for a short while let me look at the
tree, the spider, the bee, the shoot,
things that are centuries old or one year
or an hour, and the moving clouds
Let me stay here without moving
with the motion of wing and leaves;
and listen as a rooster from a farmhouse
calls, e from another corner another responds,
and when your thoughts are lost
listen to the cry of fighting magpies.
And the hour rings once more and conveys with
its penetrating sound followed by the even cadence
of the persuasive and suggestive tone of a first approach
and with a sombre, sombre, sombre voice it encourages me;
it tells me, It’s late, it tells me, and It’s time
You want me to think about going back,
convincing voice from the sky!
But this lingering day is beautiful
Appearing translucent like trough a veil!
I know it is time, I know it is late;
But let me look at it a little longer,
Let me look into my heart,
allow me to live through my past,
and if there still a flower on the branch
I may be able to find a kiss I never gave!
From my lonely sheltered corner
let me cry over my life!
And the hour still echoes, and it rings
twice, an almost excruciating sound,
and then, becomes again tranquil and bland,
it reaches me in my small corner;
it’s late! It’s the hour! Yes, let’s go back
to where love and what I love both live.

Translated by Lelio “lo scribacchino”