The Phantom Ship

Arturo Graf
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Arturo Graf (1848 1913), Italian poet , of German ancestry, was born at Athens. He was educated at the University of Naples and became a lecturer on Italian literature in Rome, till in 1876 he was appointed professor at Turin.
He was one of the founders of the Giornale della letteratura italiana , and his publications include valuable prose criticism; but he is best known as a poet. His various volumes of verse: Poesie e novelle (1874), Dopo il tramonto versi (1893), etc. gave him a high place among the lyrical writers of his country.

I saw it, saw it! A sea of lead
Voiceless and waveless. In the west
A dying sun and dull grey clouds
Like wounds across a sky blood red.

I saw it, saw it! That weary ship’s
Progress across the dark abyss,
Its huge and rounded flanks. It seemed
A beast from the Apocalypse.

Just look! Down there. Apparent now
The blackness of the hull, the flag
Drooped at the stern, a grim
Carven Medusa at the prow.

Nothing alleviates the vast
Gloom of that hulk except the bright
Cannon in gunports or the flash
Of swords that decorate each mast.

The hundred mariners who sail
This vision ranged from bow to stern,
Clinging to ropes, or stood on yards,
Each man exhausted, ancient, pale.

The captain and his every tar
Scanning the sky and deadened sea
In vain. No harbour ever found,
The longed-for port forever far.

And so the vessel sails on, manned,
And when at times horizon mist
Forms like a mountain, breathless, tired,
The cry goes up: it’s land, land, land!

That moment’s trick deceives the mind.
The mirage fades. The ship proceeds
Heavy and blackened on its way
With every hope left drowned behind.

Translation by K M Payne

If you have any comments on his translation, K M. Payne would be pleased to hear from you.

Here's the original:

Il Vascello Fantasma

Io lo vidi, io lo vidi! un mar di piombo
Senza voce, senz’onda: in occidente
Il sol morente insanguinava il cielo,
Le bige nubi lacerando a strombo.

Io lo vidi, io lo vidi! i cupi abissi
Venia premendo, procedeva stanco,
L’enorme fianco arrotondava al sole,
Pareva un mostro dell’Apocalissi.

Laggiù, guardate! In ogni parte sua
Negro lo scafo; avviluppata e nera
Una bandiera penzola da poppa,
Bieca si drizza una Medusa a prua.

Splendon vestiti di lucenti lame
Gli alberi smisurati; per le nere
Cave troniere luccicano in doppia
Fila i cannoni di color di rame.

A prora, a poppa, in cima agli alti fusti.
Ai gran canapi, su, stanno ammucchiati,
Stanno aggrappati i cento marinai,
Estenuati, pallidi, vetusti.

Il capitan coi cento marinai,
Scrutando il cielo, investigando il morto
Pelago, un porto invan spïando, il porto
Sempre invocato e non raggiunto mai.

Così l’alto vascel naviga ed erra,
E se talor la nebbia all’orizzonte
Simula un monte, stanco ed affannato
Si leva il grido: Terra, terra, terra!

Ma breve error gli spiriti soggioga:
Si dilegua il fantasma: orrida e grave
La negra nave in suo cammin procede,
E la Speranza dietro a lei s’affoga.