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

The Toilet of an Exquisite

By Giuseppe Parini (1729–1799)

From ‘The Day,’ from ‘Modern Italian Poets’ by William Dean Howells

AT Last the labor of the learned comb

Is finished, and the elegant artist strews

With lightly shaken hand a powdery mist

To whiten ere their time thy youthful locks.


Now take heart,

And in the bosom of that whirling cloud

Plunge fearlessly. O brave! O mighty! Thus

Appeared thine ancestor through smoke and fire

Of battle, when his country’s trembling gods

His sword avenged, and shattered the fierce foe

And put to flight. But he, his visage stained

With dust and smoke, and smirched with gore and sweat,

His hair torn and tossed wild, came from the strife

A terrible vision, even to compatriots

His hand had rescued; milder thou by far,

And fairer to behold, in white array

Shalt issue presently to bless the eyes

Of thy fond country, which the mighty arm

Of thy forefather and thy heavenly smile

Equally keep content and prosperous….

Let purple gaiters clasp thine ankles fine

In noble leather, that no dust or mire

Blemish thy foot; down from thy shoulders flow

Loosely a tunic fair, thy shapely arms

Cased in its closely fitting sleeves, whose borders

Of crimson or of azure velvet let

The heliotrope’s color tinge. Thy slender throat

Encircle with a soft and gauzy band….

Thy watch already

Bids thee haste to go. Oh me, how fair

The arsenal of tiny charms that hang

With a harmonious tinkling from its chain!

What hangs not there of fairy carriages

And fairy steeds so marvelously feigned

In gold that every charger seems alive?…

Let thy right hand be pressed against thy side

Beneath thy waistcoat, and the other hand

Upon thy snowy linen rest, and hide

Next to thy heart; let the breast rise sublime,

The shoulders broaden both, and bend toward her

Thy pliant neck, then at the corners close

Thy lips a little, pointed in the middle

Somewhat; and from thy mouth thus set exhale

A murmur inaudible. Meanwhile her right

Let her have given, and now softly drop

On the warm ivory a double kiss.

Seat thyself then, and with one hand draw closer

Thy chair to hers, while every tongue is stilled.

Thou only, bending slightly over, with her

Exchange in whisper secret nothings, which

Ye both accompany with mutual smiles

And covert glances that betray—or seem

At least your tender passion to betray.