Thursday, August 11

the changing view

On the mountaintop gilded by the peaceful rays of the setting sun, I see myself surrounded by a chain of hills covered by undulating wheat, and the olive trees and the elms are richly festooned with swaying vines: the distant crags and ridges grow steadily upward as if one were piled upon the other. Below me the mountainsides are furrowed by barren ravines among which the evening shadows gather as they gradually rise up; the dark and horrible background looks like the mouth of an abyss. On the southern slope the view is dominated by the wood that overhangs and obscures the valley where the sheep graze in the open and scattered goats cling to the steep crags. The birds sing feebly as if weeping for the dying day, the heifers low, and the wind seems to enjoy murmuring among the foliage. But to the north the hills divide, and a boundless plain opens out before the eye: in the nearby fields you can descry the oxen returning home: the weary farmer accompanies them leaning on his staff... Meanwhile the view is fading away, and after a long series of trees and fields it ends at the horizon where all dwindles and merges into one. The setting sun throws out a few rays, as if they were its last farewell to nature; the clouds glow pink, then slowly languish into pallor before they darken: then the plain is lost and the shadows spread out over the face of the earth, and I, as if in the middle of the ocean, can find only the sky.

-- Ugo Foscolo The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis
Translated by Alastair McEwen