Sweet Comacina, fare thee well!
Across the water’s placid breast
The music of the vesper-bell
Invites me to my port of rest;
Fair jewel of this inland sea,
May all the gods be good to thee!
("Old Lucia”, who for many years walked back and forth, every day and in all weathers, between Azzano and Menaggio, a distance of six miles, bearing merchandise of all sorts in a basket on her back, fell to the ground exhausted, as she was nearing her poor home on Christmas Eve, 1907. She died next morning at the age of seventy-three. At the time she fell, she was carrying a load of nearly one hundred pounds!)
Patient toiler on the road,
Bending ’neath your heavy load,
Worn and furrowed is your face,
Slow and tremulous your pace,
Yet you still pursue your way,
Bearing burdens day by day,
With the same pathetic smile,
Over many a weary mile,
As you bravely come and go
To and from Menaggio.
Snowy white, your scanty hair
Crowns a forehead seamed with care,
And a look of suffering lies
In your clear-blue, wistful eyes;
While your thin and ashen cheek
Tells the tale you will not speak,
Of a lodging dark and old,
And a hearth so bare and cold
That you often hungry go
To and from Menaggio.
Never know you days of rest;
Ceaseless is your humble quest
Of the pittance that you ask
For your arduous daily task.
Every morning sees your form
Pass through sunshine or through storm;
Every evening hears your feet
Trudging up the darkened street;
For your gait is always slow,
Coming from Menaggio.
Once your dull eyes gleamed with light;
Once those arms were round and white;
And the feet, now roughly shod,
Lightly danced upon the sod,
As to womanhood you grew
And a lover’s rapture knew;
For you once were fair, ’tis said,
Early wooed and early wed,
And your husband long ago
Died in old Menaggio.
Children? Aye, but not one cares
How the poor old mother fares!
You must struggle on alone;
They have children of their own,
And for them, devoid of shame,
All your scanty earnings claim!
Can you walk? Then go you must,
Plodding on through rain and dust,
Summer heat and winter’s snow
To and from Menaggio!
Christmas Eve! Through glistening green
Gleams a merry, festive scene;
Trees, with candles burning bright,
Wake in children’s hearts delight.
Where such peace and comfort reign,
None observes the window-pane,
Where your wan face sadly peers
Through a mist of falling tears
At a joy you never know,
Carrier from Menaggio!
Much that makes those children gay
You have brought them day by day,
Thankful that you thus could earn
Wood to make your hearthstone burn.
Not for you such food and light,
Clothing warm and candles bright!
You are grateful, if you gain
Bread to stifle hunger’s pain.
Ah! it was not always so
In old-time Menaggio!