Paris Review, Fall 2010, Poetry – Scherzo by Giacomo Leopardi

SCHERZO

When as a child
I came to be schooled by the Muses,
one of them took me by the hand,
and all day long
she took me through
their workshop.
One by one she showed
the tools of their art
and the different uses
each of them is put to
as they do the work
of prose and rhyme.
I was amazed, and asked her:
Muse, where’s your file? The Goddess answered:
Gone: we do without today
And I: But when it’s worn,
don’t you replace it?
Said she: We ought to; but there isn’t time.

translated from the italian by Jonathan Galassi

scherzo means ‘joke’ or ‘to play’ connoting ‘a game’ in this case it is the game or play at the craft of writing through the Muse. I love this poem; it’s like having a group of little spirit daemons at your side urging you to twitch your words; tweak your verse.

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