Sunday, 16 March 2014


Two poems by Cesare Pavese (from Lavorare Stanca)

Morning Star (Lo Steddazzu)

The lonely man gets up when the sea is still dark
and the stars tremble. A warm breeze
rises from the shore, where the seabed is,
and soothes the breath. This is the time in which
nothing can happen. Even the pipe in his mouth
dangles unlit. Nocturnal is the quiet swash.
The lonely man has already lit a bonfire of branches
and he watches as it reddens the soil.
The ocean too
will soon surge like the fire.

Nothing is more bitter than the dawn of a day
in which nothing will happen. Nothing is more bitter
than uselessness. A greenish star
hangs tired in the sky, surprised by the sunrise.
It sees the ocean still dark and a patch of fire
where the man, to kill time, keeps warm;
it sees and falls asleep amidst the gloomy mountains
in a bed of snow. The slowness of time
is atrocious for those who have nothing to wait for, any longer.

Is it worth it for the sun to rise from the sea
and for the long day to begin? Tomorrow
the warm dawn will return with its diaphanous light
and it will be like yesterday and nothing will ever happen.
The lonely man wishes only to sleep.
When the last star in the sky vanishes,
the man slowly prepares his pipe and lights it.

Instinct (L'istinto)

From his doorstep in the warm sun,
the old man, disillusioned with everything,
watches the dog and the bitch unleash their instinct.

Flies crawl around his toothless mouth,
his wife died long ago.
She too, like all bitches, did not want to hear of it,
but the instinct was there.

The old man, not yet toothless,
could smell it; the night would come,
they would go to bed. The instinct was good.
What he likes about dogs is the immense freedom.

Prowling the streets from morning to night;
eating a little, sleeping a little, mounting bitches a little:
without even waiting for the night. They reason
the way they sniff, and whatever they smell is theirs.

The old man remembers how once in the daytime
he did it like the dog in a field of wheat.
He no longer knows who the bitch was, but he remembers the hot sun
and the sweat and his desire never to stop.

It was like being in bed. If he were young again
he would always do it in a field of wheat.

A woman walks down the street and stops to watch;
the priest goes by and turns around. Everything is allowed
in the public square.
Even the woman, who restrains herself from turning around
for a man, stops.
Only a boy can't tolerate the game
and begins to pelt stones. The old man resents it.

- The end - 


  1. Thanks for translating them!

    1. My pleasure!

      I feel close to Pavese especially because he is from the same area in Italy where I am from. I can picture the fields, piazzas and places he talks about very well.