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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Leopardian Interlude (7)

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


TASSO   In this case I have enough experience to reply, to be sure. I would say that boredom is like the air, that fills all spaces left between material things as well as any empty room in them; whenever a body shifts, and no other replaces it, the air immediately takes its place. So, in human life, all intervals between pleasures and sorrows are occupied by boredom. Therefore, as -- according to Aristotle's followers -- no empty place is left among natural things, there is no void in our lives; except when our minds, for whatever reason, interrupt the use of thought. For the whole remaining time, the soul, also considered in itself with no connection to the body, must necessarily contain some passion, because being devoid of all pleasures and sorrows entails being full of boredom, which also is a passion just like pains and joys . . .

GENIUS   . . .  And since all your joys are made of a material similar to spiderwebs, most thin, and rare, and transparent, boredom from everywhere penetrates and fills the former as well as the latter. I honestly think that by "boredom" we should mean the bare desire for happiness, when it is neither satisfied with pleasure nor openly wounded by sorrow. And this desire, as we just said, is never fulfilled; and pleasure proper can be found nowhere. So that human life, so to speak, is made and woven partly with pain, partly with boredom; and it can have no rest from either except by falling into the other. And this destiny is not yours in particular, but common to the whole humankind.

TASSO   Which remedies could help us against boredom?

GENIUS   Sleep, opium, and pain. And the third of them is the most powerful of all as men, while suffering, cannot absolutely get bored.

. . . to be continued . . .