Felice Anno Nuovo

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Felice Anno Nuovo

I took up Italian recently. I’d a smattering of the language from business trips over the years: please and thanks, basic greetings, and I wouldn’t have died of thirst in a trattoria. I used the app, Duolingo, and CDs, all of which were fine but I lacked a voice, a real Italian to converse with.

And behold, I met Imma when I joined an Italian course in New College. She’s a delightful teacher, a giggler who’d brighten anyone’s evening, so encouraging and very specific. I’m back to being a schoolboy: my homework done, revisions completed, always on best behaviour. I’m sure everyone in the class would agree she spoils us: sweets on the table, wine and Italian deliciousness at end of term. If you fancy something brave to do this coming year, look up New College.

I love the sound of Italian. It’s a poet’s dream, the way it sweeps over you like a romance, whispers internal rhyme even in casual sentences. Add Italian hand-gestures and you’ve got a performance.

Sometime in the future I want to read Italian poets in the original, Dante for example. I have translations. They are inspiring but I feel they miss something and I want to feel that something. Here’s a love poem, L’Infinito (The Infinite), by Giacomo Leopardi:

Always to me beloved was this lonely hillside

And the hedgerow creeping over and always hiding

The distances, the horizon’s furthest reaches.

But as I sit and gaze, there is an endless

Space still beyond, there is a more than mortal

Silence spread out to the last depth of peace,

Which in my thought I shape until my heart

Scarcely can hide a fear. And as the wind

Comes through the copses sighing to my ears,

The infinite silence and the passing voice

I must compare: remembering the seasons,

Quiet in dead eternity, and the present,

Living and sounding still. And into this

Immensity my thought sinks ever drowning,

And it is sweet to shipwreck in such a sea. 


First published in Swindon Link