Giovanni Pascoli was eleven years old when his father was assassinated by an unknown gunman on the way home from the market. The tragedy fractured Pascoli’s childhood, ultimately shaping his life and work.
Today, Pascoli is regarded as the founding figure of modern Italian poetry. He’s best known for ignoring the grandiose language that characterized the poetry of his time and instead focusing on the imagery of the small things in life. For Pascoli, life is a mystery, and the details of nature offer symbols that guide us on our journeys to truth.
In today’s inspiration, Pascoli describes a landscape that reflects the mystery of life, and conveys the sense of loss and confusion we all sometimes experience. It’s a poem titled “In the Fog.”
IN THE FOG
By Giovanni Pascoli
I stared into the valley: it was gone—
wholly submerged! A vast flat sea remained,
gray, with no waves, no beaches; all was one.
And here and there I noticed, when I strained,
the alien clamoring of small, wild voices:
birds that had lost their way in that vain land.
And high above, the skeletons of beeches,
as if suspended, and the reveries
of ruins and of the hermit’s hidden reaches.
And a dog yelped and yelped, as if in fear,
I knew not where nor why. Perhaps he heard
strange footsteps, neither far away nor near—
echoing footsteps, neither slow nor quick,
alternating, eternal. Down I stared,
but I saw nothing, no one, looking back.
The reveries of ruins asked: “Will no
one come?” The skeletons of trees inquired:
“And who are you, forever on the go?”
I may have seen a shadow then, an errant
shadow, bearing a bundle on its head.
I saw—and no more saw, in the same instant.
All I could hear were the uneasy screeches
of the lost birds, the yelping of the stray,
and, on that sea that lacked both waves and beaches,
the footsteps, neither near nor far away.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See The Poems of Giovanni Pascoli.
More nuggets for today:
On this day in 1929, the Lateran Treaty created Vatican City, the world’s smallest independent nation.
The treaty marked the birth of the Vatican as a sovereign state. Under the terms of the agreement, the papacy recognized the state of Italy with Rome as its capital, and Italy recognized the sovereignty of the Vatican under the pope. Today, Vatican City boasts a whopping 825 citizens on a footprint of just 109 acres.
And on this day in 1990, civil rights leader Nelson Mandela was released after 27.5 years in a South African prison.
Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 along with other leaders of the African National Congress. He spent the first 18 years of his sentence at the brutal Robben Island Prison, where he was forced to work hard labor. In 1989, F.W. de Klerk began the process of dismantling apartheid. He ordered Mandela’s release the following year. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize and Mandela was elected the president of South Africa a year later.
Today is also the birthday of the actress, Eva Gabor, in 1919.
Best known for her work on the TV series, “Green Acres,” Gabor was born in Budapest and emigrated to the U.S. following her first marriage to a Swedish osteopath at the age of 18. She would marry another four times and would be quoted as saying, “Marriage is too interesting an experiment to be tried only once.” Although she came from a Hungarian-Jewish family, Gabor was Roman Catholic. She died in 1995 at the age of 76 and is buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, just yards away from her friend and “Green Acres” co-star, Eddie Albert.
Finally, today’s words of wisdom come to us from an anonymous Chinese proverb:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Now is as good a time as any. I hope you go out there and plant your tree today.
And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.
For additional reading, see The Poems of Giovanni Pascoli.
Thanks for listening. Be kind, take good care and I’ll see you tomorrow.