Cesare Pavese

Translated by Duncan Bush

Death Will Come, and It Will Have Your Eyes,

Last poems: 11th March to 10th April, 1950

Blood you have, and breath.
You're made of flesh
and hair and glances,
even you. Earth and trees,
sky of March, light,
all quiver to resemble you -
your laugh and your footstep
like water atremble -
the crease afrown between your eyes
like gathered clouds -
and your tender body
a fragment of the sun.

Blood you have, and breath.
You live on this earth.
You know the taste of it,
its seasons and awakenings,
you've played in the sun,
you've spoken to us.
Clear water, budding
of springtime, earth,
fructifying silence,
you've played as a child
under a different sky
and have its silence in your eyes,
a cloud welling
springlike from the depths.
Now you laugh
and vivify this silence.
Sweet living fruit
under clear sky,
who breathes and lives
this season of ours
in your closed silence
is your strength. Like
the living grass you
tremble in the air and laugh,
though you, you're earth.
You are the root's fierceness.
You are the earth in wait.

21 March '50


Death will come, and it will have your eyes -
this death that goes with us
from morning till night, unsleeping
frowsily, like an ancient remorse
or some dulled vice. Your eyes
will be a pointless word,
a cry suppressed, a silence.
As you see them every morning
when alone you lean
into the mirror. O heart's hope,
that day we too shall know
that you are life, and nothingness.

Death has a look for everyone.
Death will come, and it will have your eyes.
It will be like desisting in a vice,
like seeing a dead face
swim up again in the mirror,
like waiting for closed lips to speak.
We'll go down into the long hole without words.

22 March '50


You, Wind Of March*

You are life and death.
You came in March
to the bare earth-
your spasm endures.
Blood of springtime
- anemone or cloud -
your light step
violated the earth.
Sorrow begins again.

Your light step
has reopened sorrow.
The earth was cold
under an impoverished sky,
motionless and closed
into a torpid dream
like one who suffers no longer.
In the deep heart
even the frost was sweet.
Between life and death
hope stayed silent.

Now every living thing
has voice and blood.
Now earth and sky
are a deepened spasm
racked by hope,
overthrown by morning,
flooded by your step,
your dawn breathing.
Blood of springtime,
the whole earth trembles
with an ancient tremor.

You have reopened sorrow.
You are life and death.
On the bare earth
you passed as light
as swallows or clouds,
and the torrent of the heart
is rearoused and irrupts
and is mirrored in the sky
and mirrored again in things -
things in the sky and in the heart
that suffer and writhe
as they await you.
It's morning, and dawn,
blood of springtime,
you have violated the earth.

Hope writhes,
awaits you, calls you.
You are life and death.
Your step is light.

25 March '50

*Title in English in the original


I Shall Go Through The Piazza di Spagna

There will be a clear sky.
The streets will open out
onto the hills of pines and stone.
The tumult of the streets
will not disturb the still air.
Flowers blotched
with colour by the fountains
will eye you
like amused women. Steps
terraces swallows
will sing out in the sun.
That street will open out,
the stones will sing out,
the heart will beat thud, leaping
like the water in the fountains -
it will be this voice
that mounts your steps.
The windows will know
odours of stone and morning
air. A door will open.
The tumult of the streets
will be the tumult of the heart
in the bewildered light.

It will be you - motionless and clear.

26 March '50


The mornings pass clear
and empty. Just as your eyes
once opened. The morning
went by slowly, a whirlpool
of motionless light. It stayed in silence.
You lived in silence: things
came alive under your eyes
(no pain no fever no shadow)
like a clear sea at morning.

Being light itself, where you are
is morning. You will be life
and all things.
Awakened in you, we drew breath
under the sky that is still there in us.
No pain then, no fever,
nor this grievous shadow of
a crowded and different day. O light,
distant clarity, wearisome breath, turn your
still clear eyes back upon us.
The passing morning is dark
without the light of your eyes.

30 March '50


The Night You Slept*

The night resembles you too,
the distant night that weeps
silently, in the deep heart,
as weary stars wheel past.
Cheek touches cheek,
a cold shudder, someone
struggles on alone, imploring you,
lost within you, in your fever.

The night suffers and the dawn yearns,
poor leaping heart.
O face now closed, dark grief,
fever that saddens the stars,
someone waits for dawn as you do,
examining your face in silence.
You lie beneath the night
like a horizon closed off and dead.
Poor leaping heart,
one distant day you'll be the dawn.

4 April, '50


The Cats Will Know*

Still the rain will fall
on your smooth pavements,
rain light
as the wind's breath or a footstep.
Still the breeze and the dawn
will flower light as if
beneath your step
as you go in again.
Between flowers and windowsills
the cats will know.

There'll be other days.
there'll be other voices.
Alone, you'll smile.
The cats will know.
You'll hear old words,
useless, laborious words
like cast-off clothes
from yesterday's holiday.

You'll make gestures too.
You'll answer with words -
face of springtime,
you'll make gestures too.

The cats will know,
face of springtime;
and the light rain,
the hyacinth-coloured dawn
that tears open the heart
of those with no more hope of you,
are the sad smile
which you smile alone.
There'll be other days,
other voices, other wakenings.
We'll suffer through the dawn,
face of springtime.

10 April, '50

*Title in English in the original