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Poems of Italy: selections from the Odes of Giosue Carducci/Before the Old Castle of Verona

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Green Adige, 'twas thus in rapid course
And powerful, that thou didst murmur 'neath
The Roman bridges sparkling from thy stream
Thine ever-running song unto the sun,
When Odoacer, giving way before
The onrush of Theodoric, fell back,
And midst the bloody wrack about them passed
Into this fair Verona blond and straight
Barbarian women in their chariots, singing
Songs unto Odin; while the Italian folk
Gathered about their Bishop and put forth
To meet the Goths the supplicating Cross.

Thus from the mountains rigid with their snows,
In all the placid winter's silver gladness
To-day thou still, O tireless fugitive,
Dost murmuring pass upon thy way, beneath
The Scaligers' old battlemented bridge,
Betwixt time-blackened piles and squalid trees,
To far-off hills serene, and to the towers
Whence weep the mourning banners for the day,
Returning now, which saw the death of him
Whom a free Italy first chose her king.
Still, Adige, thou singest as of yore
Thine ever-running song unto the sun.


I, too, fair river, sing, and this my song
Would put the centuries into little verse;
And palpitating to each thought, my heart
Follows the stanza's upward-quivering flight.
But with the years, my verse will dull and fade;
Thou, Adige, the eternal poet art,
Who still—when of these hills the turret crown
Is shattered into fragments, and the snake
Sits hissing in the sunlight where now stands
The great basilica, St. Zeno's fane—
Still in the desert solitudes wilt voice
The sleepless tedium of the infinite.


Notes

Printed among the "Odi Barbare" of 1889. The castle, before the frowning walls of which the poet is meditating, stands by the river Adige—which here flows through Verona—and was long the home of the great Veronese family of the Scaligers. The Church of St. Zeno, to which reference is made in the last stanza, is noted as one of the finest examples of the Romanesque in northern Italy.