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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Leopardian Interlude (5)

Tasso during his internment;
he was a handsome man,
before

[Giacomo Leopardi's Dialogue between Torquato Tasso and His Home Genius, 1824; follows]


GENIUS   You've already adapted and determined yoursef to it, since you live and accept to live. What is pleasure?

TASSO   I have not experienced it enough to be able to know what it is.

GENIUS   Nobody has ever experienced it, all just speculate about it. In fact, pleasure is a notional subject, not a real one; a desire, not a fact; a sentiment that man conceives by his thought, but doesn't feel it; or rather, a concept, not a sentiment. Don't you see? In the very moment you guys feel a joy, even an infinitely desired one, attained after unspeskable toils and bothers, since you cannot be satisfied with the pleasure you feel in any such moment, you always wait for a grater and truer pleasure, that should provide you with that joy; so that you continuously anticipate the future instants of that very joy. Which always ends before the instant comes that was supposed to please you, leaving no other good than a blind trust that you will feel a better and truer joy on some other occasion, together with the comfort of imagining and telling yourself that you did enjoy it, even telling it to others, not only out of ambition but trying to persuade yourself by that. So, whoever accepts to keep living does it, basically, to no other purpose or usefulness than dreaming, i.e., believing one has already enjoyed, or will; both things being false and imaginary.

TASSO  Won't people ever believe they are presently enjoying something?

GENIUS   If they did, they would actually enjoy. But tell me, do you remember that in any instant of your life you ever happened to say, sincerely meaning it: "I am enjoying"? You surely said a lot of times: "I will enjoy," and quite often but less sincerely: "I enjoyed." So that pleasure is always something past or future, never present.

TASSO   That is to say, always nothing.

GENIUS   It would seem so.

TASSO   Even in dreams.

GENIUS   Properly speaking.

. . .  to be continued . . .