Poems of Italy: selections from the Odes of Giosue Carducci/In the Piazza of San Petronio
DARK in the winter's crystal air arise
Bologna's turrets, and above them laughs
The mountain-slope all whitened by the snows.
It is that mellowest hour when the sun
His dying salutation on the towers
And, Saint Petronius, on thy temple sheds,—
Towers whose battlements the broad-spread wings
Of many passing centuries have grazed,
And the grave temple's solitary peak.
The adamantine sky is gleaming cold
In its refulgence, and the air is drawn
O'er the piazza like a silver veil
That lightly brushes with caressing touch
The threatening piles, whose grim walls gather round,
Raised by our fathers' mail-encircled arms.
Still lingering on the mountain heights, the sun
Looks o'er the scene; and languidly his smile
Falls with suffusing tint of violet
On the grey building stones and on the dark
Vermilion brick, and seems to waken there
The living soul of vanished centuries;
And wakens in the rigid winter air
A melancholy yearning for the glow
Of spring-times past, of warm and festal eves,
When here in the piazza used to dance
The beauteous women, and in triumph home
Returned the Consuls with their captive kings.
Thus in her flight the Muse is laughing back
Upon the verse in which vain longing throbs
For all the antique beauty that is gone.
One of Carducci's most delicate bits of impressionism. The glamour which the sun's "dying salutation" sheds on the grim towers and solemn church of dark-turreted Bologna, hangs like a golden haze over the whole poem; and in the last stanza one may feel the intensity of the poet's yearning for that antique beauty which has vanished with a vanished time.