“I had all my joys, my hopes, my future wrapped around that child of mine; all the good things in my soul were tied up with the heartbeat of that child”; these were the words that the poet Giosuè Carducci wrote to his friend Giuseppe Chiarini in a letter dated November 14th, 1870.
The sudden passing of the poet’s son, Dante, occurred a few days before, on November 9th, was a tutto quel che mi era rimasto di buono nell’anima lo aveva deposto su quella testina terrible blow. And the poem he wrote, almost a mourning prayer, was left without a title for a long time.
It’s “Pianto Antico” (The Ancient Lament), a poem originally opening with a few lines from the greek poet Mosco. The title arrived in 1879, together with “Fuori alla Certosa di Bologna” (Out at Bologna Charterhouse), recalling the farewell to the poor child in the last stanza. Carducci sent the poem to his friend with a note: “I am sending you an elegy borne on an ancient memory”. Hence, from an ancient memory came The Ancient Lament, and its title.
In this poem, the contrast between the end of a life and the nature (rapresented by the pomegranate tree) that comes to life again, is more than striking.
The light and the warmth of the spring awaken life over and over again, while nothing can take little Dante away from the eternal stillness of his dark and cold grave. On the one side is the green pomegranate tree, its vermillion flowers, the light and the heat, love and sun…and it its counterpart, with the mute solitary garden and the black cold ground.
The pomegranate tree, that was actually in the poet’s courtyard in Bologna, in contrast with death, and the return of the spring and the flowers arouse happiness, evoked phonetically by three words in Italian (verde, vermigli, rinverdì / green, vermillion, turn green) suggesting that something will re-turn.