The Setting of the Moon

     As in the solitary night
over silvered countryside and water
where Zephyr gently breathes
and far-flung shadows
project a thousand lovely
insubstantial images and phantoms
onto still waves and branches,
hedges, hills, and farms;
reaching the horizon,
behind Apennine or Alp, or on the boundless
breast of the Tyrrhenian,
the moon descends, the world goes colorless,
shadows disappear, and one same darkness
falls on hill and valley.
Night is blind,
and singing with a mournful melody,
the carter on his way salutes
the last ray of the fleeting light
that led him on before.


     So youth fades out,
so it leaves mortal life
behind. The shadows
and the shapes of glad illusions
flee, and distant hopes,
that prop our mortal
nature up, give way.
Life is forlorn, lightless.
Staring ahead, the wayward traveler
searches unavailingly
for goal or reason on the long
road he senses lies ahead,
and sees that man’s home truly has become
alien to him, and he to it.

     Our miserable fate was judged
too glad and carefree up above
if youth, whose every happiness
is the product of a thousand pains,
should last for life;
the sentence that condemns
all living things to death too lenient
if first they were not given
a half-life far more cruel
than terrifying death itself.
The eternal gods invented—
great work of immortal minds—
the worst of all afflictions:
old age, in which desire is unfulfilled
and hope extinguished,
the fonts of pleasure withered,
pain ever greater, and with no more joy.

     You, hills and shores,
the splendor past that turned
the veil of night to silver in the west,
will not stay orphaned long,
for in the opposite
direction soon you’ll see
the sky turn white again and dawn arise,
after which the sun,
flaming with potent fire
will bathe you and the heavenly fields
in floods of brilliance.
But mortal life, once lovely youth
has gone, is never dyed
by other light or other dawns again.
She remains a widow all the way.
And the Gods determined that the night
which hides our other times ends in the grave.