Giovanni Verga (1840-1922)
Novelle Rusticane (1883)
[Little Novels of Sicily]

Across the sea

The train started…it began to pass like lightning through the lonely country, the open fields, the streams that glittered in the shade. From time to time a hamlet smoking, people gathered in front of a doorway. On the low wall of a little station where the train had stopped for a moment puffing, two lovers had left their obscure names written in big charcoal letters. He was thinking that she too had passed that way in the morning, and had seen those names.

Far, far away, long after, in the immense misty and gloomy city, he still recalled at times those two humble, unknown names, amidst all the crowded, hurrying throng, and the incessant noise, and the fever of general activity, exhausting and inexorable;

Farewell, sweet melancholy of sunset, silent shadows and wide, lonely horizons of our known country. Farewell, scented lanes where it was so lovely to walk together arm in arm. Farewell, poor, ignored people who opened your eyes so wide, seeing the two happy ones pass by.

Sometimes, when the sweet sadness of those memories came over him, he thought again of the humble actors in the humble dramas, with a vague, unconscious inspiration of peace and of forgetting, and of that date and of those two words – for ever – which she had left with him in a moment of anguish, a moment that had remained more living in heart and mind than any of the feverish joys. And then he would have liked to set her name on a page or on a stone, like those two unknown lovers who had written the record of their love on the wall of a faraway railway station.