What, then, did I want? What did I ask to have?
If the question had been put to me then,
and if I had been capable of expressing what was in me,
I should have replied:
I want only to keep what I have.
To rise each morning and look out on the sky
and the grassy dew-wet Earth,
from day to day, from year to year.
To watch each June and July for spring,
to feel the same old sweet surprise and delight
at th'appearance of each familiar flower,
ev'ry new-born insect, ev'ry bird
returned once more from the north.
To listen in a trance of delight
to the wild notes of the golden plover
coming once more to the great plain,
flying south, flock succeeding flock
the whole day long.
Oh, those wild beautiful cries of the golden plover!
I could exclaim with Hafiz with but one word changed:
If after a thousand years
that sound should float o'er my tomb,
my bones uprising in their gladness
would dance in the sepulchre.
To climb trees and put my hand down
in the deep hot nest of the Bienteveo
and feel the hot eggs,
the five long-pointed cream coloured eggs,
with choc'late spots and splashes at the larger end.
To lie on a grassy bank, with the blue water
between me and beds of tall bulrushes,
list'ning to the mysterious sounds of the wind
and of hidden rails and coots and courlands
conversing together in strange human-like tones;
to let my sight dwell and feast
on the camaloté flower
amid its floating masses of moist vivid green leaves,
the large almanda-like flower of a purest divine yellow
that, when plucked, leaves you with nothing
but a green stem in your hand. To ride at noon
on the hottest days when the whole Earth is a-glitter
with illusory water and see the cattle and horses
in thousands cov'ring the plain
at their watering places,
to visit some haunt of large birds
at that still, hot hour
and see storks, ibises, grey herons,
egrets of a dazzling whiteness
and rose-coloured spoon-bills
and flamingoes standing in the shallow water
in which their motionless forms are reflected.
To lie on my back on the rust-brown grass in January,
to gaze up at the wide hot whity-blue sky,
peopled with millions and myriads of glist'ning balls
of thistledown, ever floating by.
To gaze and gaze, until they are to me living things,
and I, in an ecstasy am with them,
floating in that immense shining void!
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text),
listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)
Available translations, adaptations, and transliterations (if applicable):
, "Fine della fanciullezza", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
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