In the Same Space
The setting of houses, cafes, the neighborhood
that I've seen and walked through years on end:
I created you while I was happy, while I was sad,
with so many incidents, so many details.
And, for me, the whole of you has been transformed into feeling.
C. P. Cavafy, Collected Poems (translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard) (Princeton University Press 1975).
Charles Holmes, "A Warehouse" (1921)
Last week I was browsing through the just-published English translation of Giacomo Leopardi's Zibaldone, and I came across this:
"Often changing my place of abode, where I stayed for longer or shorter periods, either months or years, I saw that I was never content, I never felt centered, I never settled into any place, however excellent it was, until I had memories that I could attach to that certain place, to the rooms in which I lived, to the streets, to the houses that I visited. Such memories consisted of nothing other than being able to say: here I was a certain time ago; here, a certain number of months ago, I did, I saw, I heard, that certain thing; a thing which would otherwise have been of no importance at all.
But the recollection, the possibility of my recalling it, made it important and sweet to me. And it is clear that only as time passed could I have this ability and abundance of recollections connected with places where I lived, and over time it would never fail me. Therefore I was always sad in any place for the first months, and as time passed I found myself increasingly content and affectionate toward whatever place. Through recollection, it became almost like my place of birth."
Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone (July 23, 1827; Florence) (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2013), page 1,911.
A side-note: up until last month, only fragments of Zibaldone (which is usually translated as "hodge-podge" or "hotch-potch") had been translated into English. Now, as a result of the efforts of the Leopardi Centre of the University of Birmingham, all 4,526 pages of Leopardi's journal are available in English. Although Leopardi is not everyone's cup of tea (a hint: Schopenhauer greatly admired him), I highly recommend Zibaldone.
Charles Holmes, "The Yellow Wall, Blackburn" (1932)
Little did I dream, England, that you bore me
Under the Cotswold hills beside the water meadows,
To do you dreadful service, here, beyond your borders
And your enfolding seas.
I was a dreamer ever, and bound to your dear service,
Meditating deep, I thought on your secret beauty,
As through a child's face one may see the clear spirit
Your hills not only hills, but friends of mine and kindly,
Your tiny knolls and orchards hidden beside the river
Muddy and strongly-flowing, with shy and tiny streamlets
Safe in its bosom.
Now these are memories only, and your skies and rushy sky-pools
Fragile mirrors easily broken by moving airs . . .
In my deep heart for ever goes on your daily being,
And uses consecrate.
Think on me too, O Mother, who wrest my soul to serve you
In strange and fearful ways beyond your encircling waters;
None but you can know my heart, its tears and sacrifice;
None, but you, repay.
Ivor Gurney, Severn & Somme (1917).
Charles Holmes, "Bude Canal" (1915)