Endlessness – Homer, Ibycus, Cicero, Leopardi (Contributed by Cristina Lofaro)

These passages explain the feelings of the four poets dealing with what is endless, impossible to reach, and for man to understand in depth. In the Greek and Latin extracts, the authors make the reader reflect on the fleetingness of time and life. The brightness of stars contrasting the darkness of the sky aims at creating a sense of fear of nothingness (horror vacui). In the last poem, Leopardi (Recanati, 1798 – Napoli 1837) attempts to imagine what lies over the hedge. The Italian poet was fond of classical poems, but had a romantic sensitiveness, so he never could accept the limit imposed on man by nature; in fact he tries to overcome the horizon through the help of imagination.

Cristina Lofaro (Latin Student at Liceo Leonardo Da Vinci)

Homer Iliad VIII. 555-559
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἐν οὐρανῷ ἄστρα φαεινὴν ἀμφὶ σελήνην
φαίνετ᾽ ἀριπρεπέα, ὅτε τ᾽ ἔπλετο νήνεμος αἰθήρ:
ἔκ τ᾽ ἔφανεν πᾶσαι σκοπιαὶ καὶ πρώονες ἄκροι
καὶ νάπαι: οὐρανόθεν δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὑπερράγη ἄσπετος αἰθήρ,
πάντα δὲ εἴδεται ἄστρα, γέγηθε δέ τε φρένα ποιμήν:

Siccome quando in ciel tersa è la Luna,
E tremole e vezzose a lei dintorno
Sfavillano le stelle, allor che l’aria
È senza vento, ed allo sguardo tutte
Si scuoprono le torri e le foreste
E le cime de’ monti; immenso e puro
L’etra si spande, gli astri tutto il volto
Rivelano ridenti, e in cor ne gode
L’attonito pastor:

As when stars in the sky, surrounding the bright moon,
sparkle burning up, if the air is devoid of winds,
and summits and other promontories and valleys are disclosed;
from the sky the immeasurable ether has broken in,
all the stars can be seen and  the shepherd rejoices in his heart …

Translated by Cristina Lofaro

Ibycus, fr 12D
Φλεγέθων ἇι περ διὰ νύκτα μακράν
σείρια παμφανόωντα

Could they burn throughout a long night
Really sparkling stars

Cicero: Somnium Scipionis (16,7-13)
Ex quo omnia mihi contemplanti praeclara cetera et mirabilia videbantur. Erant autem eae stellae, quas numquam ex hoc loco vidimus, et eae magnitudines omnium, quas esse numquam suspicati sumus, ex quibus erat ea minima, quae, ultima a caelo, citima a terris, luce lucebat aliena. Stellarum autem globi terrae magnitudinem facile vincebant. Iam ipsa terra ita mihi parva visa est, ut me imperii nostri, quo quasi punctum eius attingimus, paeniteret.

From the sky all the other dazzling and wonderful stars appeared to me as I contemplated the Universe.  There were those stars we have never seen from the Earth. We could never imagine they were so large. The smallest among them was the one that, so far away from the sky, but so close to the Earth, did not shine by its own light. Their spheres easily conquered the greatness of the Earth. The very Earth, indeed, appeared to me so small that I was saddened about our supremacy, by which we attain mastery of just a dot.

Translated by Cristina Lofaro

Leopardi, 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
silenzi, e profondissima quïete
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
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.

Always dear to me was this lonely hill,
and this hedge which blocks from view
a great part of the ultimate horizon.
But while sitting and gazing at the limitless
spaces beyond it and the silences beyond humanity and the bottomless stillness
I fabricate in my thoughts;
so that my heart barely escapes fear. And as the wind 
I hear rustling among these plants, that 
endless silence to this voice
I compare: so the eternal crosses my mind 
and the dead seasons and the present
and living one, and her sound. Thus, amidst this immensity,
my thought drowns:
and sweet to me the sinking in this sea.

English translation by Cristina Lofaro,
with assistance from Ludmilla, Eleonora and Lavinia

Tomb of the Diver, Paestum

This collection of beautiful passages has been shared with the Anthology by a school student from  Reggio, Calabria, who writes ‘My Latin teacher talked to us about this new project and I personally decided to give my support to it in order to preserve classical texts’.
The Latin teacher is Mariangela Labate, who is a great supporter of the Anthology.The partnership has developed further with this poem because Cristina’s Italian poem proved a source of inspiration to the Italian club at St James school in London. Three pupils, who are native speakers of Italian, have greatly enjoyed reading it and have helped to edit it so that it reads more fluently in English, although the translation is still essentially Cristina’s.
This collaboration by school age pupils in different countries is fantastic and helps to make this project special. Very many thanks to them all and to all the teachers who have also helped.

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