Giacomo Leopardi, probably the best-loved Italian poet, was born in Recanati, Macerata, Le Marche. Leopardi wrote A Silvia in 1828, moved by the untimely death of the family coachman’s daughter.

A SILVIA
by Giacomo Leopardi

Silvia, do you recall
those days of mortal life,
when beauty sparkled in
your quick and gleaming eyes,
when, glad and pensive, the threshold
of youth you were to rise?

The quiet halls resounded,
and so the streets around,
to your perpetual chime,
while at your female chores intent
you sat, content
of vague tomorrows
in your mind.
It was the odorous May, and that
was how you spent the day.

Discarding sometimes
my beloved studies,
the toilsome papers where
my prime was being consumed,
the best of me,
up on the terrace of the family house
I’d set my ear
to the sound of your voice,
and to the hasty hand
that ran the tiring loom.
I’d view the peaceful sky,
the golden streets, the gardens,
down here the distant sea, up there the mount.
No mortal tongue can say
what in my breast I felt.

What sweet reflections,
what hopes, what choruses, oh Silvia!
How human life and destiny
appeared to us to be!
When I recall
that hope,
affections clutch me so
acute and inconsolable
that still my grief I cry.
Oh nature, nature, why
do you withhold what
first you promise?
Why do you so
deceive these sons of yours?

’Fore winter’s cold had dried the grass,
attacked and conquered
by some closed disease
you died, oh tender one. You did not see
the flowering of your days;
your heart was not caressed
by words of praise for your dark hair,
your loving and reserved looks;
and neither did you talk of love
with friends on days of feast.
Soon were to die my hopes alike:
to my years too
did fate deny a youth.
Alas, how you swept by,
companion dear of my fresh age,
my wept-for hope!
This is that world? These the delights,
the love, the works, the events
we so long reasoned of together?
This is the lot of human folk?
When truth appeared,
you fell, poor one,
and with your hand,
a frigid death,
a naked tomb
you showed me from afar.

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