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Not under a steel nib that scratches in nasty furrows
its dull thoughts onto dry white paper;

but under the ripe sun, as breezes gust
through wide-open clearings beside a swift stream,

the heart’s sighs, dwindling into infinity, are born,
the sweet, wistful flower of melody is born.

Here redolent May shines in rose-scented air,
brilliant the hollow eyes, hearts asleep in their chests;

the heart sleeps, but ears are easily roused
by the chromatic cries of La Gioconda.

O Muses’ altar of green, white-capped
above the sea. Alcman leads the chaste choir:

“I want to fly with you, maidens, fly into a dance,
as the kingfisher flies drawn by halcyons:

he flies with halcyons over spindrift waves in a gale,
kingfisher, purple herald of spring.


A light snow falls through an ashy sky.
From the city no sounds rise up, no human cries,

not the grocer’s call or the ruckus of his cart,
no light-hearted song of being young and in love.

From the tower in the piazza, the quinsied hours
moan, sighing as if from a world far off.

Flocks of birds beat against the misted glass:
ghosts of friends returned, peering in, calling to me.

Soon, O my dears, soon—peace, indomitable heart—
I will sift down to silence, in shadow rest.