Giovanni Pascoli trans. Ottavia Silvestri: Le Femminelle

Le femminelle

E dice la rosa alba: Oh! Chi mi svelle?
Son mesta come un colchio: dal ciocco
tanto mi germinò di femminelle!

Erano come punte tenerine
di sparagio: poi fecero lo stocco:
buttarono anch’esse e s’armarono di spine.

Vivono de’ miei fiori color d’alba,
d’alba rosata; e tu non giovi, o ruta.
Mettono un boccio: una corolla scialba,
subito aperta, subito caduta.

Le femminelle1

And the rosa alba2 says: Oh! Who pulled me?
I’m as miserable as an autumn crocus:3 on my log
sprouted so many femminelle!

They were like tender asparagus
tips: and then they grew a stump:
they budded, too, and armed themselves with thorns.

They live off my dawn-coloured flowers,
a rosy dawn; and you can’t heal me, o rue.4
They blossom: a dull corolla,
already opened, already fallen.


1 ‘The epicormic shoots’: these are secondary fruitless shoots that weigh down the development of the plant.
2 ‘Rosa × alba’ or White rose of York is a hybrid rose. Note how ‘rosa’ is also the Italian word for ‘pink’ and ‘alba’ is the one for dawn.
3 Colchicum autumnale, a damaging and venomous weed; besides ‘autumn crocus’ its other common names are ‘meadow saffron’ and ‘naked lady’; not to be confused with the crocus flowers.
4 Type of plant, used medicinally, as a culinary herb or ornamentally. Its oil can be used to get rid of parasitic plants, but is ineffective against epicormic shoots.


Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912) was an important Italian symbolist and decadent poet, and classical scholar. His most famous works are Myricae (1891), Canti di Castelvecchio (1903) and Odi e Inni (1906).

Ottavia Silvestri is a political science student from Milan, Italy. Her poems have been published by Metatron Press, Hobart Pulp, Luna Luna Magazine, Sublet Projects and previously by amberflora, and are forthcoming in Witch Craft Magazine and Adjacent Pineapple. She can be found on Instagram @tamtavi.

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