Poems of Italy: selections from the Odes of Giosue Carducci/Rome

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ROME, on thine air I cast my soul adrift,
To soar sublime; do thou, O Rome, receive
This soul of mine and flood it with thy light.

Not curiously concerned with little things
To thee I come; who is there that would seek
For butterflies beneath the Arch of Titus?


Do thou but shed thine azure round me, Rome,
Illumine me with sunlight; all-divine
Are the sun's rays in thy vast azure spaces.

They bless alike the dusky Vatican,
The beauteous Quirinal, and ancient there
The Capitol, amongst all ruins holy.

And from thy seven hills thou stretchest forth
Thine arms, O Rome, to meet the love diffused,
A radiant splendor, through the quiet air.

The solitudes of the Campagna form
That nuptial-couch; and thou, O hoar Soratte,
Thou art the witness in eternity.

O Alban Moutains, sing ye smilingly
The epithalamium; green Tusculum
Sing thou; and sing, O fertile Tivoli!

Whilst I from the Janiculum look down
With wonder on the city's pictured form—
A mighty ship, launched toward the world's dominion.

O ship, whose poop rising on high attains
The infinite, bear with thee on thy passage
My soul unto the shores of mystery!

Let me, when fall those twilights radiant
With the white jewels of the coming night,
Quietly linger on the Flaminian Way;

Then may the hour supreme, in fleeing, brush
With silent wing my forehead, while I pass
Unknown through this serenity of peace,

Pass to the Councils of the Shades, and see
Once more the lofty spirits of the Fathers
Conversing there beside the sacred river.


The asterisks after the second stanza mark four verses which I have omitted from my translation, because they consist of political allusions that to an American reader could mean nothing. For the rest, the poem requires no annotation. The original is one of the most harmoniously beautiful compositions in the whole range of modern Italian literature. Only one who, like the poet, has looked down from the Janiculum on the "pictured form" of the Eternal City, who has felt the wonder of her grandeur and the immortal loveliness of her decay, can fully realize how exquisitely, how subtly her charm pervades each word of the poet's Ave. The essential spirit of Rome is there—of that Rome who is as truly Mistress of the World to-day, in her empire over men's hearts, as when of old she ruled their lives.