The Dream.

A poem by Giacomo Leopardi

It was the morning; through the shutters closed,
Along the balcony, the earliest rays
Of sunlight my dark room were entering;
When, at the time that sleep upon our eyes
Its softest and most grateful shadows casts,
There stood beside me, looking in my face,
The image dear of her, who taught me first
To love, then left me to lament her loss.
To me she seemed not dead, but sad, with such
A countenance as the unhappy wear.
Her right hand near my head she sighing placed;
"Dost thou still live," she said to me, "and dost
Thou still remember what we were and are?"
And I replied: "Whence comest thou, and how,
Beloved and beautiful? Oh how, how I
Have grieved, still grieve for thee! Nor did I think
Thou e'er couldst know it more; and oh, that thought
My sorrow rendered more disconsolate!
But art thou now again to leave me?
I fear so. Say, what hath befallen thee?
Art thou the same? What preys upon thee thus?"
"Oblivion weighs upon thy thoughts, and sleep
Envelops them," she answered; "I am dead,
And many months have passed, since last we met."
What grief oppressed me, as these words I heard!
And she continued: "In the flower of youth
Cut off, when life is sweetest, and before
The heart that lesson sad and sure hath learnt,
The utter vanity of human hope!
The sick man may e'en covet, as a boon,
That which withdraws him from all suffering;
But to the young, Death comes, disconsolate;
And hard the fate of hope, that in the grave
Is quenched! And yet, how vain that knowledge is,
That Nature from the inexperienced hides!
And a blind sorrow is to be preferred
To wisdom premature!" - "Hush, hush!" I cried,
"Unhappy one, and dear! My heart is crushed
With these thy words! And art thou dead, indeed,
O my beloved? and am I still alive?
And was it, then, in heaven decreed, that this,
Thy tender body the last damps of death
Should feel, and my poor, wretched frame remain
Unharmed? Oh, often, often as I think
That thou no longer livest, and that I
Shall never see thee on the earth again,
Incredible it seems! Alas, alas!
What is this thing, that they call death? Oh, would
That I, this day, the mystery could solve,
And my defenceless head withdraw from Fate's
Relentless hate! I still am young, and still
Feel all the blight and misery of age,
Which I so dread; and distant far it seems;
But, ah, how little different from age,
The flower of my years!" - "We both were born,"
She said, "to weep; unhappy were our lives,
And heaven took pleasure in our sufferings."
"Oh if my eyes with tears," I added, "then,
My face with pallor veiled thou seest, for loss
Of thee, and anguish weighing on my heart;
Tell me, was any spark of pity or of love
For the poor lover kindled in thy heart,
While thou didst live? I, then, between my hope
And my despair, passed weary nights and days;
And now, my mind is with vain doubts oppressed.
Oh if but once compassion smote thee for
My darkened life, conceal it not from me,
I pray thee; let the memory console me,
Since of their future our young days were robbed!"
And she: "Be comforted, unhappy one!
I was not churlish of my pity whilst
I lived, and am not now, myself so wretched!
Oh, do not chide this most unhappy child!"
"By all our sufferings, and by the love
Which preys upon me," I exclaimed, "and by
Our youth, and by the hope that faded from
Our lives, O let me, dearest, touch thy hand!"
And sweetly, sadly, she extended it.
And while I covered it with kisses, while
With sorrow and with rapture quivering,
I to my panting bosom fondly pressed it,
With fervent passion glowed my face and breast,
My trembling voice refused its utterance,
And all things swam before my sight; when she,
Her eyes fixed tenderly on mine, replied:
"And dost thou, then, forget, dear friend, that I
Am of my beauty utterly deprived?
And vainly thou, unhappy one, dost yield
To passion's transports. Now, a last farewell!
Our wretched minds, our feeble bodies, too,
Eternally are parted. Thou to me
No longer livest, nevermore shall live.
Fate hath annulled the faith that thou hast sworn."
Then, in my anguish as I seemed to cry
Aloud, convulsed, my eyes o'erflowing with
The tears of utter, helpless misery,
I started from my sleep. The image still
Was seen, and in the sun's uncertain light
Above my couch she seemed to linger still.

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