PIER PAOLO PASOLINI (1922-1975)
POEM IN FORM OF A ROSE
Oh Marx – all is gold – oh Freud –
all is sex – oh Proust – all is memory –
oh Einstein – all is finished – oh Charlot –
all is men – oh Kafka – all is terror –
oh my brothers –
oh my country – oh sense of identity –
GIOSUÈ CARDUCCI (1835 – 1907)
HYMN TO LUCIFER
You, first principle,
Body and spirit,
Reason and sense
While wine gleams
In the chalice
Like a soul
Reflected in the eyes,
While the earth
And the sun smile
Words of love,
Of an arcane rite
Rushes from the mountains
And sweeps over the bountiful plains;
For you the chained verse
I call on you, Lucifer,
King of the feast.
Put away your water,
Priest, and your mitre.
No, priest, Lucifer
Cannot be turned back!
* * *
They offer you
Incense and prayers!
You have defeated
The clerics’ Jehovah!
GIOVANNI PASCOLI (1855-1912)
The poet Omar, solitary lens
that sees and shines, that contemplates and creates,
said in front of the mausoleum of Caria :
Do not confound dust with the idea!
Poor you, who want to find in stone
the white hunting goddess,
and you, who bring to life
the obscure hero on his whinnying horse!
The time that silently passes
erodes your marble, wears down your metal.
Eight…nine…a little more; time flows
slowly; another hour…and another. A dog barks.
A bird cries, from where I don’t know.
It is midnight. One hears the sound of double steps
passing by. From distant streets
comes the rumble of carriages halting
suddenly. Everything is closed, without form,
without colour, without life. There is lit,
alone in the middle of the sleeping city,
a window, like a pupil
A BLACK CAT
open. You – the man in the lit room,
what keeps you awake?
Old pain or new hope?
You seek a truth. Your thoughts resemble
a great sea; in that immense sea,
there is a shell; inside that shell,
a pearl; that is what you want. Old man,
your face is like a snow-covered forest
ruffled by a languid wind. A black cat with the veiled gaze
of a sphinx opens his green eyes on you…
GIUSEPPE UNGARETTI (1888-1970)
like a blind man
they have led me by the hand
I want to be
as this village
in its shroud
UMBERTO SABA (1883-1957)
Café Tergeste, at your white tables
the drunk enters delirium again,
and there I write my most cheerful verses.
Café of thieves, den of whores,
at your tables I suffer martyrdom,
which I suffer in forging myself a new heart.
I was thinking : after I have enjoyed
death, will the nothing I expect to come
repay me for having lived?
I do not dare to seem magnanimous;
but, if birth is a mistake, I would be
more forgiving to my enemy, out of guilt.
Café of the masses, where once I hid
my face, today I watch you with joy.
You unite the locals and the foreigners
late at night, around your pool table.
STANDING NUDE WITH HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK
Standing nude with hands behind your back,
as if you were tightly bound
with cords. Erect
breasts that could be bitten
as well as kissed. Firm-bodied girl,
whose shame veils
your dark, shaded
nothing else matters. Two round
fruits gracefully unite
and seem to call down the mild
chastisement of girlhood. Oh, how many
would want for themselves the light
of promised pleasure that shines in my eyes,
which is often Paradise
and more often Hell without escape!
THE OLD TOWN
Often, on my way back home, I take
a different route through the old town.
It is reflected yellow in a puddle
by headlights, and leaves cover the streets.
Here among the people who come and go
from cheap restaurants and dives,
among the goods and the underclass
of a big sea-port,
I find, as I pass by, the heights
Here, the prostitute and the sailor, the old man
who curses, the bickering hag,
the barracuda sitting
in a cheap eatery,
the exuberant girl driven mad
are all creations of life
and of pain;
the Maker animates them all, and me.
Here among the humble, I am comforted;
become more pure when the path is more base.
GUIDO CAVALCANTI (1259-1300)
I see in my lady’s eyes
A light full of the spirit of love
That gives a new pleasure to my heart
And re-awakens the spark of happiness.
Something happens when I am near her
That cannot be understood rationally;
I seem to see behind her face
The eternal feminine, not comprehended
By the mind, but which immediately
Gives birth to another new beauty
Resembling a star, that moves
And says : ‘Your salvation has arrived’.
When this beautiful woman appears,
You hear a voice
Which sings your name kindly
And sweetly which, I tell you,
I feel makes me shake;
My soul is moved by sighs
That say to me : ‘If you look upon her,
You will see her virtue risen in the sky.’
SERGIO CORAZZINI (1886-1907)
DESOLATION OF A POOR SENTIMENTAL POET
Why do you call me a poet? I am not a poet.
I am just a little boy who cries.
Look : I have only tears to offer the silence.
My sadnesses are poor, common sadnesses. My joys were simple,
Simple because I would blush to confess them.
Today I think of dying.
I want to die only because I am tired;
Only because the great angels in the cathedral’s glass
Make me shake with love and anguish;
Only because I am by now resigned like a mirror,
Like a poor melancholy mirror.
See, I am not a poet: I am a sad boy who wants to die.
Oh, don’t wonder at my sadness, and don’t ask me;
I wouldn’t know the vain words – God, so vain –
That would make me cry as if I were about to die.
Those tears would have the spirit
To tell the rosary beads of sadness
For my seven-times pained heart, but I would not be a poet;
I would be, simply, a sweet and thoughtful boy
Who would have come to pray, as if singing, as if sleeping.
I confess myself in silence daily,
And the priests of silence are the sounds,
Without whom I would never have searched for, and found, God.
Last night I slept with my hands crossed.
I felt like a small, sweet boy
Forgotten by all of humanity,
Anyone’s poor, tender prey;
And I wanted to be sold, struck, starved
To be able to cry all alone,
Desperately sad, in a dark corner.
I love the simple life of things.
How many passions I saw passed over, little by little,
For every thing that had gone!
But you don’t understand me and you smile.
And you think I am sick.
Oh, I am truly sick,
And I die a little every day.
Look : just like all things. However, I am not a poet;
I know that to be called a poet,
One should live a different life.
I don’t know anything, my God, except to die. Amen.
GABRIELE ROSSETTI (1783 – 1854)
ENTRY TO SOLITUDE
I will relish, mountain,
Sitting on your sheerest edge
Where the soul expands
To the horizon,
Since in the clear air at that height
The spirit becomes purer
As it approaches the sky.
I will see the moon rise
In thickest vapour,
Like a demure virgin
With blushing face.
The heavenly traveller
Will become pale during her ascent,
Now putting on her veil, now removing it.
I go on watching the moon,
The image of our life, as it rises
And then little by little sinks
Until, completing the cycle,
It disappears and remains hidden.
Haven’t I drawn you perfectly,
O great humanity?
But we see the moon rise again,
Like we see the parent in the child,
A phoenix, not a chimaera,
Reborn after its death.
Such is this divine order
That things cannot be otherwise.
Moon follows moon, one age follows another.
You book of eternal pages,
In which, with immense letters
Of divine writing is written Himself,
He who created you
In the order of things,
Who will reveal himself to human reason,
You, prodigious mystery,
I will gaze up at;
I want no dark cloud
To cover my eyes.
I will see how every part of creation
Is connected or stands apart
In the revealed language of the heavens.
You resounding angelic language,
You sublime poetry,
That in one golden knot
Unites painting and harmony;
The soul that is visible only to you
Is freed from its bonds, and when it sings or cries
It seems to be one with the heavens.
You tune the notes,
You mix the colours,
So that the vivid images
Seem to be sung or painted,
While only the mind of prophecy
Is able to penetrate the mist of the past
And the veil of the future.
The blue vault of the sky
Over the vast plain of the sea
Is an immense concave mirror
Over a flat glass;
My gaze touches the place
That first came to life
With the impulse of the Creator’s hand.
Up there I see
A host of stars,
Whose flickering flame is reflected
In the water below;
Seeing that double display,
I feel moved and exclaim,
Shaken by an ecstasy of love:
Shine, eternal torches
Of this immense temple,
Where prayers rise like vaporous incense.
And you, my devoted prayers,
Unite with the prayers of others;
To you the paths of eternity
Are not unknown.
You visible sanctuary
Of the invisible spirit;
Where deepest darkness,
Where abundant light,
Alternately shroud the living deity,
Although every soul
Feels His great majesty.
Show me, vast universe,
What you saw that day
When this gallery of stars
Was created in a sweeping curve;
Tell me, tell me whether you looked on
While the first dawn
Bejewelled herself in pink,
When the finger of God
Outlined the concave sphere
And that same finger
Described its oblique and infinite circle;
When, to prepare the way for the sun,
The finger left a deep impression
So that the sun still follows that path.
The inextinguishable light
Suspended above everything
Begins its trek and finishes…
But I do not see any more…it has gone…
(all previously published in Acumen and Modern Poetry in Translation)
4 thoughts on “Translations of Italian Poetry”
Bravo i like the choice of poems excellent translation and interpretation the poets themselves would appreciate it
I’ve never really trusted poetry in translation, but some very nice work here regardless of the original source. You should consider putting a book together. And a few of these do qualify as speculative.
Thank you, Bruce; that’s one of the best compliments I have ever received.