The young girl now comes back from the open fields,
About the set of sun,
Bearing her swathe of grass, and in her hand
A bunch of roses and of violets,
As is her custom, for
To make more beautiful her breast and hair.
And the old woman sits
Upon the steps among her neighbors, spinning,
Turning herself to where the day goes down,
And telling tales how she, in better times,
Decked herself out against the holiday,
And graceful still, and fresh,
Would dance the evening through among the rest,
Who were companions of her lovely prime.
Darkens the air, the sky
Takes on a deeper blue, and shadows fall
Cast by the roofs and hills
Beneath the whiteness of the rising moon.
And now the bell proclaims
The holy day's approach,
And at that sound, it seems,
Each heart is cheered once more.
The small boys shouting in troops
About the village square
Go leaping hither and thither
And make a cheerful noise;
Meanwhile the laborer goes whistling home,
Back to his frugal meal,
And thinks about the coming day of rest.
When every other light around is out,
All other sound is mute,
Hark to the hammer knocking, and the saw —
The carpenter is up,
Working by lamplight in his shuttered shop,
And labors on, in haste
To get all finished before morning comes.
This is the best-loved day of all the week,
Most full of hope and joy;
The morrow will bring back
Sadness and tedium, and each within his thought
Returns once more to find his usual labor.
You little playful boy,
Even this your flowering time
Is like a day filled up with grace and joy —
A clear, calm day that comes
As a precursor to life's festival.
Be happy, little boy;
A joyful time is this.
More I'd not tell you; but if your holiday
Seems somewhat tardy yet, let not that grieve you.
(trans John Heath-Stubbs)
Source: Selected Prose and Poetry