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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.

Monte Circello

Monte Circello

By Aleardo Aleardi (1812–1878)

Translated by W. D. Howells

WHAT time,

In hours of summer, sad with so much light,

The sun beats ceaselessly upon the fields,

The harvesters, as famine urges them,

Draw hitherward in thousands, and they wear

The look of those that dolorously go

In exile, and already their brown eyes

Are heavy with the poison of the air.

Here never note of amorous bird consoles

Their drooping hearts; here never the gay songs

Of their Abruzzi sound to gladden these

Pathetic bands. But taciturn they toil,

Reaping the harvests for their unknown lords;

And when the weary labor is performed,

Taciturn they retire; and not till then

Their bagpipes crown the joys of the return,

Swelling the heart with their familiar strain.

Alas! not all return, for there is one

That dying in the furrow sits, and seeks

With his last look some faithful kinsman out,

To give his life’s wage, that he carry it

Unto his trembling mother, with the last

Words of her son that comes no more. And dying,

Deserted and alone, far off he hears

His comrades going, with their pipes in time

Joyfully measuring their homeward steps.

And when in after years an orphan comes

To reap the harvest here, and feels his blade

Go quivering through the swaths of falling grain,

He weeps and thinks: haply these heavy stalks

Ripened on his unburied father’s bones.