AFTER THE END OF TIME
GIACOMO LEOPARDI, 1824

 

There is a conversation between a gnome and a sprite, in a dialogue written in 1824 by the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, set in a future time when all men have died. The gnome wishes that one or two men might be reborn, just for the pleasure of observing them when they realize that everything was going on as before, “while they had believed that the entire world was made and kept alive for them alone.” Men “from time to time discovered some star or some planet,” the sprite says, and “immediately they made it figure in the inventory of their household property, because they imagined that the stars and the planets were lamps and candles, so to speak, placed up in the sky in order to illuminate their lordly homes”. But when the men are gone, “the rivers are not tired of flowing; and even though it no longer serves for navigation and traffic, the sea does not seem to have dried up.” “The stars and the planets have not stopped rising and setting”, says the gnome; “they are not in mourning” for men.

Emma Rothschild

DIALOGO DI UN FOLLETTO E DI UNO GNOMO
Translation by Giovanni Cecchetti, 1982

Thomas Cole, The Oxbow (The Connecticut River near Northampton, 1836).