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At times thy image to my mind returns,
  Aspasia. In the crowded streets it gleams
  Upon me, for an instant, as I pass,
  In other faces; or in lonely fields,
  At noon-tide bright, beneath the silent stars,
  With sudden and with startling vividness,
  As if awakened by sweet harmony,
  The splendid vision rises in my soul.
  How worshipped once, ye gods, what a delight
  To me, what torture, too! Nor do I e'er
  The odor of the flowery fields inhale,
  Or perfume of the gardens of the town,
  That I recall thee not, as on that day,
  When in thy sumptuous rooms, so redolent
  Of all the fragrant flowers of the spring,
  Arrayed in robe of violet hue, thy form
  Angelic I beheld, as it reclined
  On dainty cushions languidly, and by
  An atmosphere voluptuous surrounded;
  When thou, a skilful Syren, didst imprint
  Upon thy children's round and rosy lips
  Resounding, fervent kisses, stretching forth
  Thy neck of snow, and with thy lovely hand,
  The little, unsuspecting innocents
  Didst to thy hidden, tempting bosom press.
  The earth, the heavens transfigured seemed to me,
  A ray divine to penetrate my soul.
  Then in my side, not unprotected quite,
  Deep driven by thy hand, the shaft I bore,
  Lamenting sore; and not to be removed,
  Till twice the sun his annual round had made.

  A ray divine, O lady! to my thought
  Thy beauty seemed. A like effect is oft
  By beauty caused, and harmony, that seem
  The mystery of Elysium to reveal.
  The stricken mortal fondly worships, then,
  His own ideal, creature of his mind,
  Which of his heaven the greater part contains.
  Alike in looks, in manners, and in speech,
  The real and ideal seem to him,
  In his confused and passion-guided soul.
  But not the woman, but the dream it is,
  That in his fond caresses, he adores.
  At last his error finding, and the sad exchange,
  He is enraged, and most unjustly, oft,
  The woman chides. For rarely does the mind
  Of woman to that high ideal rise;
  And that which her own beauty oft inspires
  In generous lovers, she imagines not,
  Nor could she comprehend. Those narrow brows,
  Cannot such great conceptions hold. The man,
  Deceived, builds false hopes on those lustrous eyes,
  And feelings deep, ineffable, nay, more
  Than manly, vainly seeks in her, who is
  By nature so inferior to man.
  For as her limbs more soft and slender are,
  So is her mind less capable and strong.

  Nor hast thou ever known, Aspasia,
  Or couldst thou comprehend the thoughts that once
  Thou didst inspire in me. Thou knowest not
  What boundless love, what sufferings intense,
  What ravings wild, what savage impulses,
  Thou didst arouse in me; nor will the time
  E'er come when thou could'st understand them. So,
  Musicians, too, are often ignorant
  Of the effects they with the hand and voice
  Produce on him that listens. Dead is _that_
  Aspasia, that I so loved, aye, dead
  Forever, who was once sole object of
  My life; save as a phantom, ever dear,
  That comes from time to time, and disappears.
  Thou livest still, not only beautiful,
  But in thy beauty still surpassing all;
  But oh, the flame thou didst enkindle once,
  Long since has been extinguished; _thee_, indeed,
  I never loved, but that Divinity,
  Once living, buried now within my heart.
  Her, long time, I adored; and was so pleased
  With her celestial beauty, that, although
  I from the first thy nature knew full well,
  And all thy artful and coquettish ways,
  Yet _her_ fair eyes beholding still in _thine_,
  I followed thee, delighted, while she lived;
  Deceived? Ah, no! But by the pleasure led,
  Of that sweet likeness, that allured me so,
  A long and heavy servitude to bear.

  Now boast; thou can'st! Say, that to thee alone
  Of all thy sex, my haughty head I bowed,
  To thee alone, of my unconquered heart
  An offering made. Say, that thou wast the first--
  And surely wast the last--that in my eye
  A suppliant look beheld, and me before
  Thee stand, timid and trembling (how I blush,
  In saying it, with anger and with shame),
  Of my own self deprived, thy every wish,
  Thy every word submissively observing,
  At every proud caprice becoming pale,
  At every sign of favor brightening,
  And changing color at each look of thine.
  The charm is over, and, with it, the yoke
  Lies broken, scattered on the ground; and I
  Rejoice. 'Tis true my days are laden with
  Ennui; yet after such long servitude,
  And such infatuation, I am glad
  My judgment, freedom to resume. For though
  A life bereft of love's illusions sweet,
  Is like a starless night, in winter's midst,
  Yet some revenge, some comfort can I find
  For my hard fate, that here upon the grass,
  Outstretched in indolence I lie, and gaze
  Upon the earth and sea and sky, and smile.

© Giacomo Leopardi