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This article is taken from PN Review 260, Volume 47 Number 6, July - August 2021.

Broom, or The Flower of the Desert
Stanza 2
Beverley Bie Brahic
from Giacomo Leopardi, Canti, translated by Beverley Bie Brahic

And men loved darkness rather than light.
   —John 3:19

Look here and see yourself mirrored,
Vain and foolish century,
That forsaking the road
Of thought’s resurgence,
Turn your back on it
And boasting of this, call it progress.      
All the geniuses whose misfortune
It is to have had you as father
Go singing your praises, though
Left to themselves, as often
They deride you. Don’t count on me
To go to my grave covered in such shame;     
But rather the disdain of you
That I hold close within my heart
I’ll have shown as openly as I can,
Even if I know that oblivion
Is the prize of those who fail
To please their contemporaries.    
So far, I’ve laughed at my fate
Which you are going to share.  
You go dreaming of liberty
And would again shackle thought,
Thought that alone has raised us
In part from barbarity, that alone
Increases civility, that alone
Helps to advance the common good.
So the truth about the harsh fate
And lowly place nature assigns us
Displeases you. And therefore you
Like cowards turn your back
On reason’s light, and call those
Who follow it vile; and great souls
Only those who, deluding themselves, or others
Astute or ...


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