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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Chorus from ‘The Count of Carmagnola’

By Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873)

From ‘Modern Italian Poets’: Translation of William Dean Howells

ON the right hand a trumpet is sounding,

On the left hand a trumpet replying,

The field upon all sides resounding

With the tramping of foot and of horse.

Yonder flashes a flag; yonder, flying

Through the still air, a bannerol glances;

Here a squadron embattled advances,

There another that threatens its course.

The space ’twixt the foes now beneath them

Is hid, and on swords the sword ringeth;

In the hearts of each other they sheathe them;

Blood runs,—they redouble their blows.

Who are these? To our fair fields what bringeth,

To make war upon us, this stranger?

Which is he that hath sworn to avenge her,

The land of his birth, on her foes?

They are all of one land and one nation,

One speech; and the foreigner names them

All brothers, of one generation;

In each visage their kindred is seen:

This land is the mother that claims them,

This land that their life-blood is steeping,

That God, from all other lands keeping,

Set the seas and the mountains between.

Ah, which drew the first blade among them,

To strike at the heart of his brother?

What wrong or what insult hath stung them

To wipe out what stain, or to die?

They know not: to slay one another

They come in a course none hath told them;

A chief that was purchased hath sold them;

They combat for him, nor ask why.

Ah, woe for the mothers that bare them,

For the wives of the warriors maddened!

Why come not their loved ones to tear them

Away from the infamous field?

Their sires, whom long years have saddened,

And thoughts of the sepulchre chastened,

In warning why have they not hastened

To bid them to hold and to yield?

As under the vine that embowers

His own happy threshold, the smiling

Clown watches the tempest that lowers

On the furrows his plow has not turned,

So each waits in safety, beguiling

The time with his count of those falling

Afar in the fight, and the appalling

Flames of towns and of villages burned.

There, intent on the lips of their mothers,

Thou shalt hear little children with scorning,

Learn to follow and flout at the brothers

Whose blood they shall go forth to shed;

Thou shalt see wives and maidens adorning

Their bosoms and hair with the splendor

Of gems but now torn from the tender

Hapless daughters and wives of the dead.

Oh, disaster, disaster, disaster!

With the slain the earth’s hidden already;

With blood reeks the whole plain, and vaster

And fiercer the strife than before!

But along the ranks, rent and unsteady,

Many waver,—they yield,—they are flying!

With the last hope of victory dying,

The love of life rises again.

As out of the fan, when it tosses

The grain in its breath, the grain flashes,

So over the field of their losses

Fly the vanquished. But now in their course

Starts a squadron that suddenly dashes

Athwart their wild flight and that stays them,

While hard on the hindmost dismays them

The pursuit of the enemy’s horse.

At the feet of the foe they fall trembling,

And yield life and sword to his keeping;

In the shouts of the victors assembling,

The moans of the dying are drowned.

To the saddle a courier leaping,

Takes a missive, and through all resistance,

Spurs, lashes, devours the distance;

Every hamlet awake at the sound.

Ah, why from their rest and their labor

To the hoof-beaten road do they gather?

Why turns every one to his neighbor

The jubilant tidings to hear?

Thou know’st whence he comes, wretched father!

And thou long’st for his news, hapless mother!

In fight brother fell upon brother!

These terrible tidings I bring.

All around I hear cries of rejoicing;

The temples are decked; the song swelleth

From the hearts of the fratricides, voicing

Praise and thanks that are hateful to God.

Meantime from the Alps where he dwelleth

The stranger turns hither his vision,

And numbers with cruel derision

The brave that have bitten the sod.

Leave your games, leave your songs and exulting;

Fill again your battalions, and rally

Again to your banner! Insulting

The stranger descends, he is come!

Are ye feeble and few in your sally,

Ye victors? For this he descendeth!

’Tis for this that his challenge he sendeth

From the fields where your brothers lie dumb!

Thou that strait to thy children appearedst,

Thou that knew’st not in peace how to tend them,

Fatal land! now the stranger thou fearedst

Receive, with the judgment he brings!

A foe unprovoked to offend them

At thy board sitteth down and derideth,

The spoil of thy foolish divideth,

Strips the sword from the hand of thy kings.

Foolish he, too! What people was ever

For the bloodshedding blest, or oppression?

To the vanquished alone comes harm never;

To tears turns the wrong-doer’s joy!

Though he ’scape through the years’ long progression,

Yet the vengeance eternal o’ertaketh

Him surely; it waiteth and waketh;

It seizes him at the last sigh!

We are all made in one likeness holy,

Ransomed all by one only redemption

Near or far, rich or poor, high or lowly,

Wherever we breathe in life’s air;

We are brothers by one great pre-emption

Bound all; and accursed be its wronger,

Who would ruin by right of the stronger,

Wring the hearts of the weak with despair.