St. Martin’s Day


iding my motorbike one serene early October morning at dawn, making my way calmly and without rushing, atop the dyke road between the inland sea of the IJsselmeer and the beautiful marshes of the National Reservation of the Oostvaardersplassen.

This is for me one of the most beautiful spots along the coast of the IJsselmeer.

The sun just coming up on this strangely mild October morning (7°C) and the enchanting low mist banks all around the hooks and crannies of the marshes, made me think of a short poem I learned in my early schooldays about the time around St. Martin’s Day, by one of the most celebrated Italian poets, Giosuè Carducci.

And though it’s still one month to St. Martin’s Day, the beauty of the scenery and situation instantly transported me to those early November days of my youth, when I too sensed the same smells and colours described in the poem.

Obviously, it’s in Italian and the translation (below) will probably sound very un-poetical, but here it goes:

La nebbia a gl’irti colli
piovigginando sale, [1]
e sotto il maestrale
urla e biancheggia il mar; [2]

ma per le vie del borgo
dal ribollir de’ tini
va l’aspro odor dei vini
l’anime a rallegrar. [3]

Gira su’ ceppi accesi
lo spiedo scoppiettando: [4]
sta il cacciator fischiando
su l’uscio a rimirar [5]

tra le rossastre nubi
stormi d’uccelli neri, [6]
com’esuli pensieri,
nel vespero migrar. [7]

[1] The mist, changing into a slow drizzle, crawls up the steep hills,

[2] while the foaming sea roars under the beating of the North-West wind (Mistral).

[3] But (despite that) the pungent scent of simmering wine lingering through the small streets of the village has the power to brighten up the villagers souls.

[4] The sputtering roast turns slowly over the ignited logs,

[5] (While) the hunter stands in his home’s doorway, gazing up

[6] towards the reddish clouds where flocks of black birds

[7] fly away, like scattering toughs, into the darkening sky.

I like the visual quality of Carducci’s poem, its evocative character. If you know Italy just a little bit, then you should have no difficulties in seeing the vivid images of what the poet describes.

I just got the same feeling this morning, riding through the mist on my right and the water on my left. Despite being slightly late for work (on a morning like this, who gives a rat’s ass about that?), I stopped for a few minutes and had a good look around, happy and grateful to have seen this immense beauty around me.

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