Sunday, September 23, 2012


The Ox

Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907), The Ox, tr. Orlo Williams:
I love thee, holy ox; into my heart thou pourest gently a feeling of vigour and peace, whether stately as a monument thou gazest at the free and fruitful fields, or whether complacently bowing to the yoke thou gravely secondest the active work of man: he urges thee and goads thee, and thou answerest with a slow turn of thy patient eyes. From thy broad nostrils moist and black thy breath smokes up, and like a happy hymn thy lowing dies upon the calm air; and within the solemn stillness of thy grave grey eye is reflected, vast and still, the divine green silence of the plain.
The Italian:
T'amo, o pio bove; e mite un sentimento
  Di vigore e di pace al cor m'infondi,
O che solenne come un monumento
  Tu guardi i campi liberi e fecondi,

O che al giogo inchinandoti contento
  L'agil opra de l'uom grave secondi:
Ei t'esorta e ti punge, e tu co 'l lento
  Giro de' pazienti occhi rispondi.

Da la larga narice umida e nera
  Fuma il tuo spirto, e come un inno lieto
Il mugghio nel sereno aer si perde;

E del grave occhio glauco entro l'austera
  Dolcezza si rispecchia ampio e quieto
Il divino del pian silenzio verde.
Carducci's sonnet, especially the opening quatrain, inspired this engraving by Giovanni Fattori (1825-1908), with the title Pio Bove:

Some verse translations follow.

By G.L. Bickersteth:
I love thee, holy ox: a soothing sense
Of power and peace thou lodgest in my heart.
How solemn, like a monument, thou art,
Watching the pastures fertile and immense!

Or 'neath the yoke with calmness how intense
Dost thou to man's quick toil thine aid impart!
He shouts and goads thee: patient of the smart,
Thine eyes, slow turning, claim more reverence.

From thy broad nostrils, black and moist, doth rise
Thy breath in fragrant incense: like a psalm
Swells on the air thy lowing's joyful strain.

Austerely sweet are thy grave emerald eyes,
And in their depths is mirrored, wide and calm,
All the divine green silence of the plain.
By Frank Sewall:
I love thee, pious ox; a gentle feeling
Of vigour and of peace thou giv'st my heart.
How solemn, like a monument, thou art!
Over wide fertile fields thy calm gaze stealing,
Unto the yoke with grave contentment kneeling,
To man's quick work thou dost thy strength impart.
He shouts and goads, and answering thy smart,
Thou turn'st on him thy patient eyes appealing.

From thy broad nostrils, black and wet, arise
Thy breath's soft fumes; and on the still air swells,
Like happy hymn, thy lowing's mellow strain.
In the grave sweetness of thy tranquil eyes
Of emerald, broad and still reflected dwells
All the divine green silence of the plain.
By Emily A. Tribe:
I love thee, kindly ox; a sense serene
Of strength and peace thou dost infuse in me;
How like a solemn monument art seen
At gaze athwart the fertile fields and free!

The yoke to take contented thou dost lean,
To man's light work thou addest dignity.
He urges, goads, and thou with placid mien
And eye's slow turn dost answer patiently.

Thy spirit through thy nostril moist and black
In vapour issues. Like some glad refrain
Thy lowing dies upon the tranquil air.

Within thy sombre eye is mirrored back
The green reflection of the ample plain,
Austerely sweet, and in the silence fair.
Related post: Cows.

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