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X Agosto - by Giovanni Pascoli

X Agosto Included in the collection Myricae, "X Agosto" (with the date written in Roman numbers to represent a cross) was written by Giovanni Pascoli in memory of his father Ruggero, murdered under mysterious circumstances on the night of St. Lorenzo, 10 August 1867.

The poet compares the killing of his father, who was returning home carrying two dolls to his daughters, to the universal story of a swallow, returning to the nest with food in its beak, killed by a gunshot, in a vision of the world where injustice and evil prevail. Even the sky on the night of San Lorenzo covers the earth with the tears of the stars.

In this poem Pascoli's three major themes appear: the nest, human suffering and the mystery of evil. The nest is the family, where everyone seeks an escape from evil. But both the father and the swallow will never come back, victims of a shotgun, a senseless human violence, an action for which there will never be justice.

To learn more about Giovanni Pascoli, see this video documentary on YouTube
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San Lorenzo, io lo so perché tanto
di stelle per l'aria tranquilla
arde e cade, perché sì gran pianto
nel concavo cielo sfavilla.
St Lawrence, I know why so many
stars through the calm air
burn and fall, why such great weeping
in the concave sky sparkles.
 
Ritornava una rondine al tetto:
l'uccisero: cadde tra i spini;
ella aveva nel becco un insetto:
la cena dei suoi rondinini.
A swallow was returning to the roof:
they killed her: she fell among thorns;
she had an insect in her beak:
the dinner of her little swallows.
 
Ora è là, come in croce, che tende
quel verme a quel cielo lontano;
e il suo nido è nell'ombra, che attende,
che pigola sempre più piano.
Now she is there, as on a cross, protending
that worm to that distant sky;
and her nest is in the shadows, waiting,
peeping softer and softer.
 
Anche un uomo tornava al suo nido:
l'uccisero: disse: Perdono;
e restò negli aperti occhi un grido:
portava due bambole in dono.
Also a man was returning to his nest:
they killed him: he said: Forgive me;
and a scream stayed in the open eyes:
he was bringing two dolls as a gift.
 
Ora là, nella casa romita,
lo aspettano, aspettano in vano:
egli immobile, attonito, addita
le bambole al cielo lontano.
Now there, in the lonely home,
they're waiting, waiting in vain;
he, motionless, astonished, points
the dolls to the distant sky.
 
E tu, Cielo, dall'alto dei mondi
sereni, infinito, immortale,
oh! d'un pianto di stelle lo inondi
quest'atomo opaco del Male!
And you, Heaven, from the heights
of serene worlds, infinite, immortal,
oh! with tears of stars will you flood
this opaque atom of Evil!