The Pit Post | Poems


or single lines from poems, once we’ve learned them, stay with us for an eternity or until we lose our minds.  Most of my Italian friends can recite the first three lines of Dante’s “Inferno” from “La Divina Commedia”:

“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,

ché la diritta via era smarrita.”

Most Italians my age (been around a half century or so) know most of Giacomo Leopardi’s “Il Sabato del Villaggio”:

“La donzelletta vien dalla campagna

in sul calar del sole,

col suo fascio dell’erba; e reca in mano

un mazzolin di rose e viole,

onde, siccome suole, ornare ella si appresta

dimani, al dí di festa, il petto e il crine.”

And this is just the beginning of the poem.  That’s the power of poetry.  Great poems stay with us forever.  Two or three days after my bike got away from me while descending a perfect, but steep and sinuous Tuscan hill, a phrase from a Robert Frost poem, entitled, ‘Out, Out-’, etched across my mind drawing a grin across my face: “Neither refused the meeting.”  Frost’s poem is about a Vermont farm boy out working, cutting “stove-length sticks of wood,” with a buzz saw.  At one point, the narrator describes the saw ‘seeming to leap out” at the boy’s hand, and then comes the famous line.  And that is what the road seemed to do to me.  Leap up at me. Accidents never happen like in films, in slow motion, so there is no recall.  How ever it happened – and I know it involved velocity, wind, hairpin turns, and loss of control – ‘neither’ my body nor the road ‘refused the meeting.’  Things broke, but nothing belonging to the hill.  I do remember an animal-like sound coming from my lips, I remember fighting for any precious drop of air – though there is no lack of the stuff in the Tuscan hills.  We breathe in a sea of it on every bike ride.  However, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ballad, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a sea captain is stuck on a ‘silent, still and burning sea’ near the equator and dying of thirst:

“Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.”

More unforgettable lines of old poetry.  Dante gets lost in the “obscure wood” before being guided through the Inferno. Leopardi’s poem is about ‘Saturday,’ the most beautiful day of the week, like April 2nd on the hill.  The boy in Frost’s poem unfortunately dies.  The hill was kinder than the buzz saw. The sea captain lives long enough to tell his story.  I am back to my blog.  All’s Well That End’s Well.  And we know who wrote that.



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