Saturday, December 9, 2017

Italian Epitaphs, Translated

James McNeill Whistler
La Marchande de Moutarde
1858
etching
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Anonymous Italian printmaker working in Rome
Woman on Rearing Horse
ca. 1599-1622
engraving
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Anonymous Italian printmaker after Parmigianino
Allegorical Figure of Faith
ca. 1525-1600
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

from EPITAPH FOR BICE DONETTI

Here eyes toward the rain and the spirits of night,
there, in field fifteen at Musocco,
lies the Emilian woman I loved
in the sad hours of youth.
Death prevailed over her, not long ago,
while she was quietly watching
the autumn wind shake the branches
and leaves of the plane trees
from her gray house on the edge of town.
Her face is still alive with surprise,
as surely it was in childhood, struck
by the fire-eater high up, on the wagon.
O you who pass by, drawn by other deaths,
stop for a  moment before grave
eleven-sixty to speak a word
. . .

 written in 1949 by Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968), translated by Adam Giannelli

Anonymous Italian printmaker after Parmigianino
The Sacrifice of Mucius Scaevola
ca. 1525-1600
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Monogrammist YHS after Baldassare Tommaso Perruzzi
The Lonely Man
ca. 1520-50
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

attributed  to Rembrandt
Beheading of St John the Baptist
1629-30
etching
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

from EARTH AND DEATH

Death will come and will have your eyes 
this death that accompanies us
from morning till evening, unsleeping,
deaf, like an old remorse
or an absurd vice. Your eyes
will be a useless word,
a suppressed cry, a silence.
That's how you see them each morning
when alone with yourself you lean
toward the mirror. O precious hope,
that day we too will know
that you are life and you are nothingness.

Death has a look for everyone.
Death will come and will have your eyes.
It will be like renouncing a vice,
like seeing a dead face
resurface in the mirror,
like listening to a lip that's shut.
We'll go down in the maelstrom mute.

 written in 1951 by Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), translated by Geoffrey Brock

E. Le Tellier (designer)
Playing Card - Seven of Diamonds
ca. 1875
lithograph
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Albrecht Dürer
The Sea Monster
ca. 1498
engraving
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Adolfo De Carolis
The Archer
Symbolist Allegory - The Spirit Survives
ca. 1917-20
chiaroscuro woodcut
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

from THE SAND AND THE ANGEL

We didn't need the crumbling temples on the deserts' edge,
With lopped columns and stairs that lead nowhere;
Nor the sand-covered wreckage, the bleached bones along the sea.
Not even the violence of fire against our fields and homes.
It was enough that the shadow rose from the quietest corner of the room
Or kept its vigil behind our half-closed doors 
The fine rain against the windowpanes, a piece of tin moaning in the wind:
We knew already we belonged to death. 

 written in 1946 by Margherita Guidacci (1921-1992), translated by Ruth Feldman

Anonymous Italian artist working in Padua
Plaquette - Bacchus discovering Ariadne on Naxos 
(copy of an ancient gem, then in the Gonzaga Collection, Mantua)
15th century
bronze
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Master ND after Raphael
Massacre of the Innocents
ca. 1544
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Master ND
Holy Family
ca. 1544
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Master ND
Holy Family
ca. 1544
chiaroscuro woodcut
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Firmin Perlin
Homage to a Hero
1772
watercolor, gouache
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

RETURN

I came again
to where I'd never been.
Nothing was changed from what it wasn't.
On the table (on the waxed
checkered tablecloth) half-emptied
I found the glass that had never
been filled. Everything
still remained just as
I had never left it.

 written in 1975 by Giorgio Caproni (1912-1990), translated by David Goldstein