Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Introductory
To Italy
Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837)
 
Anonymous translation

O ITALY, my country! I behold
Thy columns, and thine arches, and thy walls,
And the proud statues of our ancestors;
The laurel and the mail with which our sires
Were clad, these I behold not, nor their fame.        5
Why thus unarmed, with naked breast and brow?
What means that livid paleness, those deep wounds?
To heaven and earth I raise my voice, and ask
What hand hath brought thee to this low estate,
Who, worse than all, hath loaded thee with chains,        10
So that, unveiled and with dishevelled hair,
Thou sittest on the ground disconsolate,
Hiding thy weeping face between thy knees?
Ay, weep, Italia! thou hast cause to weep!
Degraded and forlorn. Yes, were thine eyes        15
Two living fountains, never could thy tears
Equal thy desolation and thy shame!
Fallen!—ruined!—lost! who writes or speaks of thee,
But, calling unto mind thine ancient fame,
Exclaims, “Once she was mighty! Is this she?”        20
Where is thy vaunted strength, thy high resolve?
Who from thy belt hath torn the warrior sword?
How hast thou fallen from thy pride of place
To this abyss of misery! Are there none
To combat for thee, to defend thy cause?        25
To arms! Alone I ’ll fight and fall for thee!
Content if my best blood strike forth one spark
To fire the bosoms of my countrymen.
Where are thy sons! I hear the clang of arms,
The din of voices, and the bugle-note;        30
Sure they are fighting for a noble cause!
Yes, one faint hope remains,—I see,—I see
The fluttering of banners in the breeze;
I hear the tramp of horses and of men,
The roar of cannon, and, like glittering lamps        35
Amid the darkening gloom, the flash of swords.
Is there no comfort? And who combat there
In that Italian camp? Alas, ye gods,
Italian brands fight for a foreign lord!
O, miserable those whose blood is shed        40
Not for their native land, for wife or child,
But for a stranger lord,—who cannot say
With dying breath, “My country! I restore
The life thou givest, and gladly die—for thee!”
 
 
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