Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Infinite

The Infinite

It was always dear to me, this solitary hill,
and this hedgerow here, that closes out my view,
from so much of the ultimate horizon.
But sitting here, and watching here, in thought,
I create interminable spaces,
greater than human silences, and deepest
quiet, where the heart barely fails to terrify.
When I hear the wind, blowing among these leaves,
I go on to compare that infinite silence
with this voice, and I remember the eternal and the dead seasons, and the living present,
and its sound, so that in this immensity
my thoughts are drowned, and shipwreck seems sweet
to me in this sea.

Giacomo Leopardi
(1798 - 1837)

I include this poem by Italian poet, Giacomo Leopardi, considered Italy's greatest 19th Century lyric poet, for no other reason than I found it beautiful. Can there be a better reason?


At 11:17 PM, Blogger Pindar said...

Aussiegirl, you continually surprise me! Not only great political analyses, witty comments on all sorts of events, a sterling and very insightful and informative running commentary on the Ukrainian crisis...but changing gear you enrich us with beautiful poetry, first Shevchenko, now Leopardi. I went to Google and found the original, which I hereby append. Italian is certainly one of the most beautiful languages in world, perfect for opera (and the little Ukrainian I've heard I thought equally beautiful...and I said it before and I'll say it again, ever so much more beautiful than Russian...perhaps it has to do with the souls of the two cultures). Here's the original "L'infinito":

Sempre caro mi fu quest'ermo colle,
e questa siepe, che da tanta parte
dell'ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati
spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani 5
silenzi, e profondissima quiete
io nel pensier mi fingo; ove per poco
il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
infinito silenzio a questa voce 10
vo comparando: e mi sovvien l'eterno,
e le morte stagioni, e la presente
e viva, e il suon di lei. Così tra questa
immensità s'annega il pensier mio:
e il naufragar m'è dolce in questo mare. 15

At 11:33 PM, Blogger Pindar said...

Thinking about Italian and language in general reminds me that
several posts ago Aussiegirl wondered where the phrase "hot toddy" came from. Well, one of the books I always have within reach is John Ayto's "Dictionary of Word Origins", so I immediately went to page 534 and there was "palm sap", from a Hindi word for palm tree, "tar", itself from a Sanskrit word which probably came from a Dravidian language (Dravidian languages are unrelated to Indo-European languages like Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian, English, Greek). Now palm sap was used as a drink, often in a potently fermented form, so in the 18th century "toddy" came to denote a hot spirit-based drink (probably, though it isn't mentioned, by the British in their Far East colonies).

At 11:42 PM, Blogger Pindar said...

Oops, once again I hit the enter button too quickly. I had intended to end my etymological excursion into "toddy" with a quotation about, of all things, etymology, from William Cowper's Retirement:

Philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah's Ark.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

OK, Pindar -- we are just going to have to make you a regular contributor to UT -- what wonderful information you dig up. I love the limerick on philologists -- hilariously clever -- thanks. And the derivation of toddy. Now -- I still must find a recipe and post that -- there's still time as it's still not quite midnight and not quite Christmas day yet.

Thanks so much for finding the original Italian of the Leopardi. I had wondered what the original sounded like, as there's nothing like the music of poetry -- and for that one needs the original. Italian is one of the world's most languages, and I mostly know it from my love of opera. So I could probably carry on a rather heated conversation having to do with jealousy, revenge, death, suicide or despair -- but in all likelihood would be hard pressed to ask directions to the coliseum or to the Via Veneto or to order food in a restaurant.

Thanks again for the wonderful comments.


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