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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Ungaretti: San Martino del Carso


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File:1915 may blasted bridges over border  creek at pennelha and  punnafel.jpg

Blasted bridges over creek at Austrian/Italian border, May 1915: photographer unknown (Kötschach-Mauthen War Museum, Austria)



Valloncello dell'Albero Isolato il 27 agosto 1916


Di queste case
non è rimasto
che qualche
brandello di muro

Di tanti
che mi corrispondevano
non è rimasto
neppure tanto

Ma nel cuore
nessuna croce manca

È il mio cuore
il paese più straziato




File:Útok rakouské pěchoty na Soči.gif

Austro-Hungarian infantry attacking Italian forces at Isonzo River, c. 1916: photographer unknown, from Vojenské dějiny Československa II


Valley of the Isolated Tree 27 August 1916

Of these houses
stands
nothing
but a few broken bits of wall


Of the many people who
once
were here with me
not even that much is left

But in my heart for each
there stands a cross

That's the most broken
place



File:Görz und Isonzo.jpg

Gorizia on the Isonzo River, during Battle of the Isonzo, c. 1916: photographer unknown


San Martino del Carso: Giuseppe Ungaretti, from Il porto sepolto (The buried harbour), 1916, trans. TC

11 comments:

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Thanks for this -- Ungeretti's beautiful Italian, your translation (its echo), the photos (lest anyone would forget). . . .

6.8

pink clouds in pale blue sky above still
black ridge, waning white moon by branch
in foreground, waves sounding in channel

which in each lets something
be that is, meanings of

echo’s transparency, thought
of subject, reflections

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
wingspan of cormorant flapping above it

TC said...

Many thanks, Steve, for the beautiful aerial moment, our uplift for the morning -- and wow, today we really needed it:

meanings of

echo’s transparency, thought
of subject, reflections

Through the night I found myself broken on the wheel of history with the Battle of the Isonzo. Over three long years the Italian army, badly overmatched, fought twelve protracted battles in that valley against the Austro-Hungarian Army. Ungaretti became accustomed, each night, to doubting he would see another morning. And then, the wonder -- another dawn. With, every day, fewer and fewer comrades alive to experience it with him.

Estimates of fatalities on that front, 1915-1918: up to 600,000.

"I began *Il porto sepolto* on the first day of my life in the trenches -- Christmas Day, 1915. I was in the Carso, on Mount San Michele. I spent those nights lying in mud, opposite the enemy who was positioned higher than us and who was a hundred times better armed. In the trenches, almost always in those same trenches, because we stayed on San Michele even during the breaks -- the battles went on for a year. *Il porto sepolto* contains the experience of that year.

"I was in the presence of death, in the presence of nature, of a nature that I learned to know in a new, terrible way. I was a man who wanted nothing for himself but relationship with the absolute, the absolute that was represented by death, not by danger, that was represented by the tragedy that brought man to meet himself in massacre. In my poetry there is no trace of hatred for the enemy, nor for anyone: there is the grip of consciousness of the human condition, of the fraternity of mankind in suffering, of the extreme precariousness of its condition. There is the will to expression, the necessity of expression, in *Porto sepolto*, that almost savage elation of the vital impulse, of the appetite for living, that is multiplied in the proximity and daily company of death. We live in contradiction."

Curtis Roberts said...

The poem, of course, is sufficient, but it is enlarged by the photographs illustrating it, which immediately embed themselves in your memory as absolute images. We live in contradiction. What, if I may ask, caused you to focus your attention last night on the Battle of Isonzo?

knott said...

bravo first rate your trans are always vibrant and in tech ...

I wish the web had been around back in time when Cid Corman was doing his trans of Ungaretti et al because those are hard to find in print (i lost that issue of Origin) and it seems they're not being collected printed etc

;;;

TC said...

Bill, thanks very much, that means a lot to me. Esp. the in tech part.

(Ah yes, so much gets lost.)


Curtis,

As to why I chose to do that work: I've always had my own imagination of the landscape at the front where Ungaretti composed those scraps of poems, and I have my own memories from very long ago of that part of the world; but reading and working with the poems again now I have committed myself to follow the "visualization" technique my present obscure ekphrastic program demands.

(It's probably harder than working for a living, and in fact less satisfactory for other reasons as well, but there you have it.)

And that path of (self) demand led me into the historical archives.

The photographic record of that war on the Eastern Front was not easily turned up, but once found proved an eye opener. In fact research into the photo record of any fronts in just about any war is always an eye opener.

The preoccupation probably derives from whatever obscure (that word again) source inspired last month's post titled Eternity.

In the interests of opening up this matter of Ungaretti and eternity for you a bit more -- though with such a hermetic poet and such a hermetic poem, it feels almost profane to be talking about opening things up -- I've just now put up this.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

Thanks for all such further material (and thoughts), which open up a whole new world (to me). But now that I think about it, I was given a small volume of Ungaretti's poems years ago, by an Italian friend named Alberto Bedeschi (who lived in Panzano, between Florence and Sienna, we stayed with him there for weeks, and he later came here to Bolinas). Maybe I can find it -- U's humble account of those circumstances in which he wrote Il porto sepolto are, what to say? -- gripping. . . .

TC said...

U. spoke of the compositional circumstance as involving a great many disparate "pieces of paper -- postage-exempt postcards, margins of old newspapers, white spaces in cherished letters I had received -- on which, for two years, day after day, I had been examining my conscience, sticking them later helter-skelter into my knapsack, carrying them to live with me in the mud of the trenches, or making myself a pillow out of them during rare breaks..."

At the time, he said, "I had no idea of any public."

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

An amazing tale of how those poems 'came to be' -- under what circumstances pen was put to paper, etc. Could give us all hope, I hope.

TC said...

I hope it could give us hope, hopefully.

Carlos Martian said...

bella evocación de G.Ungaretti,gracias!

TC said...

De nada, Carlos.