Forging an Arrow of Gold

In Chapter 4 of Assagioli’s book Harmony in Life, he invites his readers to:

“Reread Giosuè Carducci’s poem ‘Il poeta’ (‘The Poet’) as it expresses in a wonderful way … through which the psychic elements are fused and shaped in an inner fire, producing works of beauty.”

Inspired by Assagioli’s suggestion, I searched the internet for the poem and found it in Italian along with a translation by G. L. Bickersteth published in 1913.[1] While Bickersteth’s translation is true to the meter and rhyme of Carducci’s poem, the language itself felt antiquated – for example, his use of ‘merry-andrew’ in the third line. So, I decided to attempt to translate Carducci’s poem myself from a more literal perspective.

Giosuè Carducci (1835–1907) was a poet, writer, literary critic and teacher. During his lifetime, Carducci was regarded as the official national poet of modern Italy, and today he is studied by nearly all Italian students during high school. In 1906 he became the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature “not only in consideration of his deep learning and critical research, but above all as a tribute to the creative energy, freshness of style, and lyrical force which characterize his poetic masterpieces.”[2]


The Poet
by Giosuè Carducci

(translated by Catherine Ann Lombard)

The poet, oh foolish folk,
is not a beggar
crashing other’s banquets
with vile jokes and crazed antics
to steal away the bread
he robs from the pantry.

Nor is he a loafer
with hazy daydreams
his head forever in the clouds
his eyes roving
in vain search of angels
only to see swallows
nesting in the barn.

Neither is he a gardener
enriching life’s paths
with manure
only to offer cabbage flowers
to the men
and violets
to the ladies.

The poet is a mighty blacksmith,
a bare-chested artisan
who everyday with pride
makes for steely muscles
and sturdy neck,
sinewy arms and lively eyes.

Just before the birds
twitter their morning song,
and the dawn shines upon the hills,
the blacksmith’s bellows
awaken flames to roar
his forge to labor in.

And the flames flash and shine
sparkling boldly
audaciously glowing
whistling, hissing, and then roaring
finally soaring
crimson embers in the grate.

What will be, I do not know.
God only knows
while smiling upon the poet
smithing the flame
so fervent
upon the elements
of love and thought.

Elements that he throws
into the furnace
along with memories
and the glories of his forbearers
and his people
past and future
flowing into one
incandescent mass.

He seizes his hammer
to toil and tame the molten mass.
The hammer beats and sings
upon the anvil.
The sun rises and is resplendent
upon the work
so laboriously won.

He hammers! For freedom
Swords and shields of fortitude
Garlands victorious
Life glorious
And Beauty’s coronation
Majestic and sweet.

He hammers! And lo!
Tabernacles decorated
for the household gods
and their rituals.
Tripods and altars embellished
with rare frieze.
And rich chalices for the banquet.

For himself, the poor blacksmith
makes an arrow of gold
and shoots it towards the sun
to watch how high it flies
and how splendid it glows;
To watch and marvel at
its graceful brilliance
and nothing more.


References

[1] Bickersteth, Geoffrey Langdale (1913). Carducci. London: Longmans, Green.

[2] “Vita, opere e poetica di Giosuè Carducci” (in Italian). 13 June 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2022.

3 thoughts on “Forging an Arrow of Gold

  1. amysundari

    What a worthwhile read! Thank you for this post and this skillful translation of a moving poem. How wonderful to have the numerous subtle movements, and toiling labor, of the poet brought to such tangible, sweat-breaking form! And to read Assagioli’s appreciation of it. Thank you very much.

    Reply

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