O.Wilde, Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. (...)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. (...)

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. (...)
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself...

O. Wilde (1854-1900),
Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A. Manzoni, Il Cinque Maggio

      Alessandro Manzoni  

      1785 - 1873

       Italian poet and novelist
      (Romantic literary movement)                                

(The napoleonic ode)

When the mortal gasp was given,                    
Lay the unremindful spoil
Whence so great a soul was riven;                  
So the Earth, smitten and dazed
At the announcement, stands amazed              
Ei fu. Siccome immobile,
dato il mortal sospiro,
stette la spoglia immemore
orba di tanto spiro,
così percossa, attonita 
Silent, pondering on that last                            la terra al nunzio sta,               
Fateful hour; nor, gazing back                         
In fearful wonder o'er the past,
Kens she when with such a track
By mortal foot shall yet be pressed
The dust upon her bloody breast.                     Muta pensando all’ultima
                                               ora dell'uom fatale;
né sa quando una simile
orma di pie' mortale
la sua cruenta polvere
My Genius saw him on a throne                       a calpestar verrà.
In flashing splendor, nothing said;
The blandishments of fortune flown,
He fell, he rose, again was laid;
While thousand voices then awoke,
Mingled with these, no word he spoke;
           Lui folgorante in solio
vide il mio genio e tacque;
quando, con vece assidua,
cadde, risorse e giacque,
di mille voci al sònito
Virgin of end-serving praise                             mista la sua non ha:
And the coward's safe outrage,
Shocked by the blot of such a blaze,
He rises now his chance to gage,
Shaking the urn, e'en to untie
A canticle which will not die.                           
vergin di servo encomio
e di codardo oltraggio,
sorge or commosso al sùbito
sparir di tanto raggio;
e scioglie all'urna un cantico
From Pyramids to heights alpine                      che forse non morrà.
Flashed that god's swift lightning-stroke;
From Manzares to the Rhine
Rapid, crashing thunders broke,
Rolling on from Scylla's sea
Shaking farthest Muscovy.
                               Dall'Alpi alle Piramidi,
dal Manzanarre al Reno,
di quel securo il fulmine
tenea dietro al baleno;
scoppiò da Scilla al Tanai,
Was this, glory just and true?                           dall'uno all'altro mar.
Sentence waits posterity.
Bow we to the Highest's view,
Willing us in him to see
Stamped a trace more vast and grand
Of His own resistless hand.
                              Fu vera gloria? Ai posteri
l'ardua sentenza: nui
chiniam la fronte al Massimo
Fattor, che volle in lui
del creator suo spirito
With hurricanes of anxious joy,                        più vasta orma stampar.
Earthquake exploits of wild renown,
A heart in unsubdued annoy
In slavery gloats upon the crown;
And gains the goal and grasps a prize
'T was madness there to set his eyes.              
La procellosa e trepida
gioia d'un gran disegno,
l'ansia d'un cor che indocile
serve, pensando al regno;
e il giunge, e tiene un premio
All he tasted; glory growing                             ch'era follia sperar;
Greater after great embroil;
Flight; and victory bestowing
Palace; and the sad exile;
Twice in the dust a victim razed,
Twice on the altar victim blazed.                     
tutto ei provò: la gloria
maggior dopo il periglio,
la fuga e la vittoria,
la reggia e il tristo esiglio;
due volte nella polvere,
He made a name, two centuries, set                 due volte sull'altar.
Armed against each other and
To him turned as for their fate,
Waited a signal of his hand.
He sat between them, hushed them still,
Made arbiter his iron will;                               
Ei si nomò: due secoli,
l'un contro l'altro armato,
sommessi a lui si volsero,
come aspettando il fato;
ei fe' silenzio, ed arbitro
And disappeared; his empty days                    s'assise in mezzo a lor.
Mured within that narrow bound,
Mark for envy's fiercest rays,
Pity's sympathy profound,
Inextinguishable hate,
And love unsubdued by fate.                          
E sparve, e i dì nell'ozio
chiuse in sì breve sponda,
segno d'immensa invidia
e di pietà profonda,
d'inestinguibil odio
As on the shipwrecked sailor's head                e d'indomato amor.
The wave is wrapped and weighs him down,
The wave upon whose lofty spread
His strained sight was lately thrown,
Scanning to discern once more
The distant and evading shore;                        
Come sul capo al naufrago
l'onda s'avvolve e pesa,
l'onda su cui del misero,
alta pur dianzi e tesa,
scorrea la vista a scernere
Such on that soul the massy weight                   prode remote invan;
Of memories descended, when --
How many times! -- he would narrate
What he has been to coming men;
And on the eternal page remained
Fallen the palsied, nerveless hand!                  
tal su quell'alma il cumulo
delle memorie scese.
Oh quante volte ai posteri
narrar se stesso imprese,
e sull'eterne pagine
How oft while day without emprise                  cadde la stanca man!
Sank into sepulchral rest,
Bent to earth his flashing eyes,
Arms enlaced upon his breast,
He stood; from days of other years
Received the assaults of souvenirs;                
Oh quante volte, al tacito
morir d'un giorno inerte,
chinati i rai fulminei,
le braccia al sen conserte,
stette, e dei dì che furono
Reviewed the moving tents of war                    l'assalse il sovvenir!
And vanquished ramparts of the foe
And flashing columns gleam afar
And wavy squadrons charging go
And swift commands impetuous made
And swift obedience displayed.                      
E ripensò le mobili
tende, e i percossi valli,
e il lampo de' manipoli,
e l'onda dei cavalli,
e il concitato imperio
Ah, now, methinks, in such a strait                   e il celere ubbidir.
The spirit fell, breathless and riven
By keen despair; but strong and great
Came a pitying hand from heaven
And into more inspiring air
The desperate transported there;                    
Ahi! forse a tanto strazio
cadde lo spirto anelo,
e disperò; ma valida
venne una man dal cielo,
e in più spirabil aere
Led through the flowery paths of Hope             pietosa il trasportò;
To the eternal plains -- the meed
Where guerdons bright, supernal ope,
That loftiest wishes far exceed.
Past glory's trump and brightest glare
Are silence and deep darkness there.              
e l'avvïò, pei floridi
sentier della speranza,
ai campi eterni, al premio
che i desideri avanza,
dov'è silenzio e tenebre
O thou, fair Immortal! beneficent Faith             la gloria che passò.
Accustomed to triumphs, conqueror of death!
This, also, among thy triumphings write;
Since no prouder greatness, no loftier height
Of earth-born glory that mortals can know
Has come to the shame of Golgotha to bow.   
Bella Immortal! Benefica
Fede ai trïonfi avvezza!
Scrivi ancor questo, allegrati;
ché più superba altezza
al disonor del Gòlgota
From these weary ashes, thou                          giammai non si chinò.
Words condemning ban;
God, who fells and lashes now
Lifts and soothes again,
On that lonely dying bed
Soft His heavenly presence shed.                    
Tu dalle stanche ceneri
sperdi ogni ria parola:
il Dio che atterra e suscita,
che affanna e che consola,
sulla deserta coltrice
accanto a lui posò.

The napoleonic ode ‘Il Cinque Maggio’ was written in only three or four days by Alessandro Manzoni who had been deeply moved by Napoleon’s christian conversion on his death-bed  (the news of Napoleon’s death was given on 16th July 1821 and was published in the ‘Gazzetta di Milano’ paper).
Despite the Austrian censorship, this napoleonic ode had a high European circulation  thanks to Goethe who had it published on the German magazine "Ueber Kunst und Alterthum".
The first edition, published by Marinetti, appeared in Turin in 1823.

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