Thursday, September 06, 2007

e lucevan le stelle

I was sorry to hear that Luciano Pavarotti died this morning, a giant talent. I woke my husband up to tell him. I'm sure William Matthews wrote the poem "E lucevan le stelle" in part as homage to Pavarotti's voice, or what the voice could stir.

E lucevan le stelle
by Wm. Matthews

And the stars shone, and the earth unstoppered
its perfumes, the garden gate scratched
open, footsteps lisped along the path
and they were hers, and she was mine.

And my hand shook the more slowly
I unwrapped and dawdlier I kissed her,
and her aromas rose, and the hour fled,
which is the way with hours.

And I’ve unveiled myself of any hope,
and death’s steps rasp along the path,
and, like any star, I have nothing
to burn but the life I love.


LKD said...

Ah, gee.

I woke up this morning and heard Luciano on NPR and knew he'd died.

It made me sad deep down inside to think that voice will never sing again.

My father loved Luciano---and opera. I think I learned to like and then love opera thanks to my father exposing me to it. Luciano wasn't my favorite tenor (of the three tenors, I liked the little guy, not Placido, the other one who survived cancer...what the hell is his name?). Luciano's voice was a bit too bright for my taste. I always preferred a darker tone. Still, I was always moved when I heard him sing.

I was going to post the words to E lucevan le stell on my blog but you beat me to it. It's one of my favorite arias. Whenever I listen to it, it chokes me up---and has since the first time I heard it, before I knew what the translation of the lyrics was.

I'm confused though. You've posted it as being a poem by Matthews....and I thought it was an aria from Tosca. The poem is part of the opera?

Damn, I'm sad tonight.

I think I'll listen to E lucevan and go to bed.

SarahJane said...


Go ahead and post the words on your blog. You sure have some wonderful photo to go with it.

The poem by William Matthews is a loose translation/creative interpretation of the aria. The words to the aria, with my very unpoetic translation, are:

E lucevan le stelle ed olezzava la terra (and the stars shone and the earth was fragrant)

stridea l'uscio dell'orto e un passo sfiorava la rena (the garden gate creaked and there came a footstep in the sand)

Entrava ella fragrante / mi cadea fra la braccia (she entered, fragrant, / falling into my arms)

O dolci baci, o languide carezze (o sweet kisses, slow caresses)

mentr'io fremente le belle forme disciogliea dai veli (as I trembled the gown fell from her beautiful form)

Svani per sempre il sogno mio d'amore (gone forever is my dream of love)

L'ora e fuggita, e muoio disperato (the time has flown and in despair I die)

e non ho amato mai tanto la vita (and I have never loved life more)

Matthews embellishes, and makes the operatic outpouring less bathetic. Of course my Italian has gone to crap and we'd be better off asking Rob M. or another italo-abler for help here...

Rob said...

I suppose you might call it a "version." Probably Matthews feels the title of his poem is enough to reference its origin without crediting anyone specifically.

There is an argument over such things, which will probably never be resolved. Some people might want a more specific credit being given to the original, others would feel that isn't needed.

Good poem though.

michi said...

ah yes. switched on the tv yesterday, and there was something on about him, so i knew.

what a voice. some of his recordings can really move me to tears. e lucevan le stelle is one of them.

i thnk your translation is pretty much spot on, altough of course *my* italian has gone to crap as well. :)

thanks for the post,


SarahJane said...

yes, a version sounds good. a good version. i really like the word "unstopper."

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