Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Travels of a Leaf

Antoine-Vincent Arnault (1766-1834), La Feuille:
'De la tige détachée,
Pauvre feuille desséchée,
Où vas-tu?' — 'Je n'en sais rien.
L'orage a frappé le chêne
Qui seul était mon soutien;
De son inconstante haleine
Le zéphyr ou l'aquilon
Depuis ce jour me promène
De la forêt à la plaine,
De la montagne au vallon.
Je vais où le vent me mène,
Sans me plaindre ou m'effrayer;
Je vais où va toute chose,
Où va la feuille de rose,
Et la feuille de laurier!'
A rather free English translation by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859):
'Thou poor leaf, so sear and frail,
Sport of every wanton gale,
Whence, and whither, dost thou fly
Through this bleak autumnal sky!'
'On a noble oak I grew,
Green, and broad, and fair to view;
But the Monarch of the shade
By the tempest low was laid.
From that time, I wander o'er
Wood, and valley, hill, and moor;
Wheresoe'er the wind is blowing,
Nothing caring, nothing knowing.
Thither go I, whither goes
Glory's laurel, Beauty's rose.'
Italian translation by Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), with the title Imitazione and without mention of Arnault:
Lungi dal proprio ramo,
Povera foglia frale,
Dove vai tu? — Dal faggio
Là dov'io nacqui, mi divise il vento.
Esso, tornando, a volo
Dal bosco alia campagna,
Dalla valle mi porta alla montagna.
Seco perpetuamente
Vo pellegrino, e tutto l'altro ignoro.
Vo dove ogni altra cosa,
Dove naturalmente
Va la foglia di rosa,
E la foglia d'alloro.
English translation, supposedly of Leopardi's Italian, but apparently also showing knowledge of Arnault's French, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882):
'Torn from your parent bough,
Poor leaf all withered now,
Where go you?' 'I cannot tell.
Storm-stricken is the oak-tree
Where I grew, whence I fell.
Changeful continually,
The zephyr and hurricane
Since that day bid me flee
From deepest woods to the lea,
From highest hills to the plain.
Where the wind carries me
I go without fear or grief:
I go whither each one goes—
Thither the leaf of the rose
And thither the laurel-leaf.'
Some discussions, which I haven't yet read:

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