Seamus Heaney - The Kite

È con grande piacere e con un pizzico di orgoglio che Griseldaonline presenta ai suoi lettori la traduzione della poesia “L’aquilone” di Giovanni Pascoli realizzata dal premio Nobel irlandese Seamus Heaney. Heaney ha letto la sua traduzione il 3 aprile di quest’anno nella sala dello Stabat Mater presso la Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio di Bologna, in occasione del convegno internazionale “Pascoli nell’immaginario degli italiani”. La traduzione è ora pubblicata nel volume Italian Poetry, An Anthology, a cura di Geoffrey Brock (Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2012). Noi la presentiamo corredata dalle parole di introduzione che Heaney ha voluto premettere alla sua lettura, per raccontare l’amore che lo lega all’Italia e all’opera di Pascoli.

I translated this poem for Mary Kelleher because of her love of Italy, Italian people and Italian culture. It’s a thank offering for a very happy evening Marie and I spent chez Kelleher a few years ago, round a table where Massimo Bacigalupo was our guest of honour and the company rose to the occasion with the wit and warmth a literary visitor expects in Dublin; and it’s a memento of a couple of cheerful days we all spent subsequently in the Cinque Terra - flying our kite, in a manner of speaking, in Lerici beside the Golfo dei Poeti.

But there are other Italian-Irish connections here as well, not least the phrase ‘Urbino’s windy hill’, which is pinched from Yeats’s poem ‘To a Weathy Man Who Promised A Second Subscription etc.’. I quoted this line when I was the recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Urbino and the subject of a laudatio by Professor Gabriella Morisco. During that visit, Professor Morisco supplied me with the text of Pascoli’s ‘L’Aquilone’: she knew that Yeats’s phrase lurked in the Italian text and knew moreover that I had written my own kite poem (‘A Kite for Michael and Christopher’). Sooner or later, therefore, I was bound to go ‘fishing in the sky’ (as the Chinese put it) one more time.


A translation of ‘L’Aquilone’ by Giovanni Pascoli (1855 –1912)

for Mary Kelleher

There’s something new in the sun to-day – but no,
More like something old: at this distance even
I sense the violets starting to peep through

Beside the Convent of the Capuchins,
On the wood floor, between the stumps of oak
Where dead leaves shilly-shally in the wind.

A breath of mild air breathes, its little frolic
Cajoles hard clods, combs the yielding grass
Round country churches green up to the doorstep -

Air from another life and time and place,
Pale blue heavenly air that is holding up
A flotilla of white wings on the breeze –

The kites! Yes, it is! The kites! It’s that morning
And there’s no school and we’ve come trooping out
Among the briar hedges and the hawthorn.

The hedges bristled, shivered, spiky, stripped,
But autumn lingered in red clumps of berries
And spring in a few flowers, blooming white.

A robin hopped around the leafless branches.
In the ditch a lizard showed its darting head
Above dead leaves and vanished: a few scurries.

So now we take our stand, halt opposite
Urbino’s windy hill: each scans the blue
And picks his spot to launch his long-tailed comet.

And there it hovers, flips, veers, dives askew,
Lifts again, goes with the wind until
It rises to loud cheers from us kids below.

It rises, and the hand is like a spool
Unspooling thread, the kite a thin-stemmed flower
Borne far away to flower again as windfall.

It rises and it carries ever higher
The longing in the breast and anxious feet
And gazing face and heart of the kite-flier.

Higher and higher until it’s just a dot
Of brightness far, far up…But now a sudden
Crosswind and a scream…Whose scream was that?

Companions’ voices rise to me unbidden
And familiar, still the same old chorus
Of sweet and high and hoarse. And there isn’t,

My friends, one I don’t recognize, and yes,
Of us all, you in particular, who droop your head
On your shoulder and avert your quiet face,

You, over whom I shed my tears and prayed,
You who were lucky to have seen the fallen
Only in the windfall of a kite.

You were very pale, I remember, but had grown
Red at the knees from kneeling on the floor -
Raw from all that praying night and morning.

And ah, were you not lucky to cross over
With confidence in your eyes, and in your arms
The plaything that of all things was most dear.

Gently, I well know, when the time comes
We die with our childhood clasped close to our breast
Like a flower in bloom that closes and reforms

Its petals into itself. O you, so young, the youngest
Of my dead, I too will soon go down into the clay
Where you sleep calmly, on your own, at rest.

Better to arrive there breathless, like a boy
Who has been racing up a hill,
Flushed and hot and soft, a boy at play,

Better to arrive there with a full
Head of blond hair, which spread cold on the pillow
As you mother combed it, wavy and beautiful,

Combed it slowly so as not to hurt you.