La gola e’l sonno et l’otïose piume

Greed and sleep and slothful beds
have banished every virtue from the world,
so that, overcome by habit,
our nature has almost lost its way.

And all the benign lights of heaven,
that inform human life, are so spent,
that he who wishes to bring down a stream
from Helicon is pointed out as a wonder.

Such desire for laurel, and for myrtle?
‘Poor and naked goes philosophy’,
say the crowd intent on base profit.

You’ll have poor company on that other road:
So much the more I beg you, gentle spirit,
not to turn from your great undertaking.

Francesco Petrarca

returning to the village

Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?
F. Villon

I
What are you doing
by the fire, girl,
pale as a sapling
fading in the dusk?
“I’m kindling old sticks.
The smoke rises dark
and tells me the world
I live in is safe.”
But by the sweet-smelling fire
I cannot breathe.
I wish I were the wind
dying down in the village.

II
My journey is over.
Sweet smell of polenta,
sad lowing of cattle.
My journey is over.
“You’ve come here among us,
but we only live,
live quiet and dead,
like water that trickles
unseen between hedges.”

III
Midday chimes ring
festive in my village.
Yet what silence the bell
casts over the fields!
You haven’t changed, bell;
in awe I return to your voice.
“Time does not move:
behold the fathers’ smiles
in the children’s eyes
like rain on the branches.”

Pier Paolo Pasolini