A poem by Giacomo Leopardi

Approaching now the end of his abode
On earth, Consalvo lay; complaining once,
Of his hard fate, but now quite reconciled,
When, in the midst of his fifth lustre, o'er
His head oblivion, so longed-for, hung.
As for some time, so, on his dying day,
He lay, abandoned by his dearest friends:
For in the world, few friends to him will cling,
Who shows that he is weary of the world.
Yet she was at his side, by pity led,
In his lone wretchedness to comfort him,
Who was alone and ever in his thought;
Elvira, for her loveliness renowned;
And knowing well her power; that a look,
A single sweet and gracious word from her,
A thousand-fold repeated in the heart,
Devoted, of her hapless lover, still
His consolation and support had been,
Although no word of love had she from him
E'er heard. For ever in his soul the power
Of great desire had been rebuked and crushed
By sovereign fear. So great a child and slave
Had he become, through his excess of love!
But death at last the cruel silence broke;
For being by sure signs convinced, that now
The day of his deliverance had come,
Her white hand taking, as she was about
To leave, and gently pressing it, he said:
"Thou goest; it is time for thee to go;
Farewell, Elvira! I shall never see
Thee more; too well I know it; so, farewell!
I thank thee for thy gentle sympathy,
So far as my poor lips my thanks can speak.
He will reward thee, who alone has power,
If heaven e'er rewards the merciful."
Pale turned the fair one at these words; a sigh
Her bosom heaved; for e'en a stranger's heart
A throb responsive feels, when she departs,
And says farewell forever. Fain would she
Have contradicted him, the near approach
Of fate concealing from the dying man.
But he, her thought anticipating, said:
"Ah, much desired, as well thou knowest, death,
Much prayed for, and not dreaded, comes to me;
Nay, joyful seems to me this fatal day,
Save for the thought of losing thee forever;
Alas, forever do I part from thee!
In saying this my heart is rent in twain.
Those eyes I shall no more behold, nor hear
Thy voice. But, O Elvira, say, before
Thou leavest me forever, wilt thou not
One kiss bestow? A single kiss, in all
My life? A favor asked, who can deny
Unto a dying man? Of the sweet gift
I ne'er can boast, so near my end, whose lips
To-day will by a stranger's hand be closed
Forever." Saying this, with a deep sigh,
Her hand beloved he with his cold lips pressed.

The lovely woman stood irresolute,
And thoughtful, for a moment, with her look,
In which a thousand charms were radiant,
Intent on that of the unhappy man,
Where the last tear was glittering. Nor would
Her heart permit her to refuse with scorn
His wish, and by refusal, make more sad
The sad farewell; but she compassion took
Upon his love, which she had known so long;
And that celestial face, that mouth, which he
So long had coveted, which had, for years,
The burden been of all his dreams and sighs,
Close bringing unto his, so sad and wan,
Discolored by his mortal agony,
Kiss after kiss, all goodness, with a look
Of deep compassion, on the trembling lips
Of the enraptured lover she impressed.

What didst thou then become? How in thy eyes
Appeared life, death, and all thy suffering,
Consalvo, in thy flight now pausing? He
The hand, which still he held, of his beloved
Elvira, placing on his heart, whose last
Pulsations love with death was sharing, said:
"Elvira, my Elvira, am I still
On earth? Those lips, were they thy lips? O, say!
And do I press thy hand? Alas, it seems
A dead man's vision, or a dream, or thing
Incredible! How much, Elvira, O,
How much I owe to death! Long has my love
Been known to thee, and unto others, for
True love cannot be hidden on the earth.
Too manifest it was to thee, in looks,
In acts, in my unhappy countenance,
But never in my words. For then, and now,
Forever would the passion infinite,
That rules my heart, be silent, had not death
With courage filled it. I shall die content;
Henceforth, with destiny, no more regret
That I e'er saw the light. I have not lived
In vain, now that my lips have been allowed
Thy lips to press. Nay, happy I esteem
My lot. Two precious things the world still gives
To mortals, Love and Death. To one, heaven guides
Me now, in youth; and in the other, I
Am fortunate. Ah, hadst thou once, but once,
Responded to my long-enduring love,
To my changed eyes this earth for evermore
Had been transformed into a Paradise.
E'en to old age, detestable old age,
Could I have been resigned and reconciled.
To bear its heavy load, the memory
Of one transcendent moment had sufficed,
When I was happier than the happiest,
But, ah, such bliss supreme the envious gods
To earthly natures ne'er have given! Love
In such excess ne'er leads to happiness.
And yet, thy love to win, I would have borne
The tortures of the executioner;
Have faced the rack and fagot, dauntlessly;
Would from thy loving arms have rushed into
The fearful flames of hell, with cheerfulness.

"Elvira, O Elvira, happy he,
Beyond all mortal happiness, on whom
Thou dost the smile of love bestow! And next
Is he, who can lay down his life for thee!
It is permitted, it is not a dream,
As I, alas, have always fancied it,
To man, on earth true happiness to find.
I knew it well, the day I looked on thee.
That look to me, indeed, has fatal been:
And yet, I could not bring myself, midst all
My sufferings, that cruel day to blame.

"Now live, Elvira, happy, and adorn
The world with thy fair countenance. None e'er
Will love thee as I loved thee. Such a love
Will ne'er be seen on earth. How much, alas,
How long a time by poor Consalvo hast
Thou been with sighs and bitter tears invoked!
How, when I heard thy name, have I turned pale!
How have I trembled, and been sick at heart,
As timidly thy threshold I approached,
At that angelic voice, at sight of that
Fair brow, I, who now tremble not at death!
But breath and life no longer will respond
Unto the voice of love. The time has passed;
Nor can I e'er this happy day recall.
Farewell, Elvira! With its vital spark
Thy image so beloved is from my heart
Forever fading. Oh, farewell! If this,
My love offend thee not, to-morrow eve
One sigh wilt thou bestow upon my bier."
He ceased; and soon he lost his consciousness:
Ere evening came, his first, his only day
Of happiness had faded from his sight.

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