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


To Italy

By 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.

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,

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

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?”

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?

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;

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

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

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!”