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Echoes of today's Italy in the poem «To Italy» written by Giacomo Leopardi and tinged by arguments against the present inert, corrupt and incapable of generous and forward-looking actions. The poet contemplates the Italian troops in Napoleon’s armies, and recalls the ancient Greek heroes of Thermopylae and Salamis who repulsed the Persians.
Composed in September 1818, the “song” recovers the Italian literary tradition, reflects the anxieties of Romanticism, expresses a strong patriotic sense and nostalgia for the greatness of the past. The poet born ...

in Recanati recalls the values ​​of his own land and expresses the need to free himself from foreign domination. The political and moral decadence of Italy is an aspect of the decadence of the whole modern era and feeds the reflections on historical pessimism.
The themes are those of war as an instrument of reaction to the situation of slavery and the fear that does not react to foreign domination. The fear and the lack of reaction from the people are expressed with a metaphor that runs through the entire song: Italy is compared to a woman who has become a slave who does not react to the violence suffered. Meanwhile, references to historical facts flow, particularly to the wars that have allowed the peoples to regain their freedom. The language is noble, solemn, in the wake of the classicist tradition, with influences by Alfieri and Foscolo.
(F.d'A.)

To Italy

O my country, I see the walls, arches

columns, statues, lone

towers of our ancestors,

but I do not see the glory,

I do not see the iron and the laurel in which

our forefathers were clasped. Now, defenceless,

you show your naked breast and brow.

Ah, how wounded,

what blood and bruises! Oh how I see you

loveliest of ladies! I ask the sky

and the earth: tell me, tell me:

who reduced her to this? And worse,

imprisoned both her arms in chains:

so with loosened hair, without a veil,

she sits on the ground, neglected, disconsolate,

hiding her face

between her knees, and weeping.

Weep, my Italy, with good reason,

you, born to outdo nations,

in good fortune and in ill.

 

If your eyes were two living fountains

your weeping would be unequal

to your hurt and your disgrace:

once a lady, now you’re a poor servant.

Who can speak or write of you,

remembering your past glories,

and not say: ‘Once great, you are so no longer’?

Why? Why? Where is the ancient power,

where the weapons, courage, and endurance?

Who lowered your sword?

Who betrayed you? What art or effort

or superior force

stripped you of your cloak and laurel wreath?

How did you fall, and when,

from such heights to such depths?

Does no one fight for you? Not one

of your own defend you? To arms, arms: I alone

I’ll fight, I’ll fall, alone.

Heaven, grant that my blood

might set Italian hearts on fire.

 

Where are your sons? I hear the sound of weapons

and the wagons, and the voices, and the drums:

your sons are fighting

on a foreign field.

Listen, Italy: listen. I see, oh, around me,

the swell of troops and horsemen,

smoke, dust, the glitter of swords,

like lightning in the mist.

Surely you’re neither comforted nor willing for

your trembling sight to witness so dubious a fate?

Why should the youth of Italy

fight in such fields? O powers,

that Italians should fight for another country.

O wretch, lost in war,

not for his homeland and a loyal wife,

and beloved sons,

but at the hands of another’s enemies,

for another’s race: who cannot say in dying:

‘Dear land of my birth, see,

how I render the life you gave me.’

 

Oh blessed, and dear and fortunate

those ancient days when our people

rushed to die in ranks for their country:

And you, O narrow pass,

honoured and glorious for ever,

where Persia and fate were not strong enough

for a few brave and generous spirits!

I think your grass and stone and waves

and mountains, tell the passer-by

with indistinct voices

how the unconquered ranks of corpses

sacrificed for Greece

covered all that shore.

Then Xerxes, cruel and cowardly,

fled over the Hellespont

to be mocked to the last generation:

and Simonides climbed

the hill of Antela, where the sacred band

in dying made themselves deathless,

to gaze on the earth and sea and sky.

 

And both cheeks wet with tears,

with beating heart, and stumbling feet,

he took his lyre in his hand:

‘You, most blessed of all,

who each offered yourself to the enemy lance,

for love of her who gave you to the light,

you the Greeks revered, the world admired,

what was that love so great that led

young men to war and danger,

what love drew them to their bitter fate?

How, sons, could you find such joy,

in that last moment, when smiling

you rushed to the harsh, sad pass?

Each of you seemed like one who goes to dance

not die, or goes to a glorious feast:

but dark Tartarus awaited

you, and the dread waves:

no wife or child accompanied you

when you died, on that cruel shore,

without kisses, without grief.

 

But not without deep hurt to the Persians,

and eternal anguish.

Like a lion in a herd of bulls

that leaps on the back of one, and tears

its back with its teeth,

and bites its flanks or thighs,

so the anger and courage of Greek hearts

raged amongst the Persian ranks.

See the horses and riders levelled,

see where the shattered tents and wagons

block the flight of the defeated,

and the tyrant, pale, escaping,

runs with the leaders:

see how the Greek heroes drenched

and stained with barbarous blood,

bringing infinite grief to the Persians,

fall one against the other, gradually

defeated by their wounds. Oh live, live,

you blessed ones,

while the world can speak and write.

 

The stars stripped from the sky, falling to the sea,

will sooner be drowned, hissing, in the deep,

than our love for you

be past and done.

Your tomb’s an altar: where the mothers

come to show their little ones the glorious

traces of your blood. See how I bend,

O blessed ones, to the soil,

and kiss the turf and stones,

that will be praised, famous for ever,

from pole to pole.

Ah if only I were with you, below,

and the kind earth was moistened by my blood.

If fate’s opposed, and will not consent

that I fall in war, and close

my dying eyes, for Greece,

then, if the powers above so will,

may that lesser fame,

of your poet, the future may bring,

endure as long as yours shall endure.

Cara Italia, ...

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