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Friday, 4 June 2010

Ungaretti: Stars


File:Joshua tree keys view pano more  vertical.jpg

Panoramic view southward toward Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains from Keys View in Little San Bernardino Mountains, Joshua Tree National Park, California (Salton Sea, 230 ft. below sea level, rear left, San Andreas Fault visible on valley floor): photo by Matthew Field, 2008

Tornano in alto ad ardere le favole.

Cadranno colle foglie al primo vento.

Ma venga un altro soffio, 

Ritornerà scintillamente nuovo.


See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

The ant planetary nebula Mz 3 (magnitude 13.8, 4500 light years from Earth), bipolar structure in constellation Norma composed of four distinct high-energy outflows (lobes, columns, rays, chakram) around a bright core, seen as preview of the death of our sun: Hubble Space Telescope photo by R. Sahai (JPL), NASA/ESA Hubble Heritage Team, 2001

On high the reluctant fables blaze.

When the first breeze stirs they'll fall with the leaves.

But come another breath on high they'll flare anew.

File:Chachani summit edited.jpg

Summit of the Chachani, 6075 m. (left), and Mt. Fatima, highest of three volcanoes above Arequipa, Peru: photo by Alexandre Buisse, 2007

Stelle (Stars): Giuseppi Ungaretti, 1927, from Sentimento del tempo (Sense of time), 1933, trans. TC


Curtis Roberts said...

I find this poem, translation and arrangement of images and colors incredibly moving, almost impossibly so, and a very great success. I had the fun, as I always do when you post non-English language poems on BTP, of running the original through a translation software program, and it’s fascinating and a great pleasure to see what you’ve done to make the poet’s words live and breathe in their new home.

TC said...

Thanks so much Curtis, it's a great pleasure to feel your close eye at work.

The antlike nebula -- bipolar lobes, narrow waist -- offered a kind of hourglass structure, with the high (Andes) and low (Salton Sea) points of our hemispheric space above and below, in the anatomy of the post.

(Ungaretti was Alexandrian; I can feel something like an Egyptian astronomical starlight and desert silence in and between the hard, "hermetic", open yet elusive lines of his poetry.)

u.v.ray. said...

Ungaretti is one of my favourite poets.

Sadly, his poems get nowhere near the attention they deserve - at least, that seems to be the case here in England. I never see his books readily available in the shops.

I wish I could fully appreciate his work in its original language. I think, however, you've done a good job in retaining that simple beauty.

I do particularly like Ungaretti's war poems.

TC said...

Thanks very much Ray, good to hear from you and to hear that we share this taste. Not surprising, your own work is spare after the manner of this hard master.

I've tried my hand at this poem before in an earlier post that also has a photo of Ungaretti in his military kit, and a few anecdotes of other poets you will recognise who were Ungaretti fans too.

To Ungaretti



This poem completely moves me (I think I know why, but won't try to say why), together with such photos (high peaks and stars), what a pleasure to find here . . . .


grey whiteness of cloud against invisible
ridge, motionless green of leaf in right
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

finite with respect to space
of reference, material

field contained, mass merged,
regarded as improbable

grey-white cloud reflected in channel,
wingspan of osprey flapping toward it

TC said...


Beautiful in the variorum of the series to find an osprey flapping in the same breezeway that last time held a cormorant.

Yes, the unsayable Ungaretti spaces are "out there" like that roof of Wittgenstein's (have I made this up??), the one from which the ladder has been thrown down and we can no longer speak for the postlogical stargazing.

Not bounded by the

finite with respect to space


(grey-white cloud

here too this a.m., feels like rain coming... as trucks grind gears hauling uphill, plenty of sound but no waves in drear urban semblance of "channels"...)

Curtis Roberts said...

All of these comments and Steve's poem ("field contained, mass merged/regarded as improable") have added to what I first felt upon reading Ungaretti Stars. I really appreciate your description of the poem's visual anatomy and the additional information about Ungaretti, Alexandria, Egyptian anatomical starlight and desert silence, Tom, which seems like another work in itself. Caroline's adding the ant planetary nebula photo as her screen background, semi-grim-end-of-the-world subtext and all. It's really stunning to behold. We're off to our college reunion today (it's only 20 minutes down the road), me now feeling highly philosophical.

TC said...

Well, I suppose the end of the world as we know it was never going to amount to anything worse than the beginning of the world as we don't know it.

May philosophy sustain you both through the reunion, Caroline and Curtis.

Curtis Roberts said...

Thanks -- it will have to. Our college is unbelievably cheap on the refreshments side of things. But the campus is beautiful, some good friends are attending and showing up at these things is always fraught with mystery.

Anonymous said...

You're fecundity never ceases to amaze me, Tom. In itself, it would be notable: coupled with the extraordinary quality of your work, it's nothing short of goddamn miraculous. Colour me envious...

TC said...


Everything I know I have learned from you, maestro.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Stunning work, Tom - myth as poem, poem as myth.

As Curtis notes endings, you note beginnings, and the true cyclical nature of the poem, and of All, is revealed.

A lesson in how to capture the feeling of beauty, fierce, wonder full beauty, beyond words ...

TC said...

Thanks very much, Don. I have been chiseling away at this one for nearly forty years now. Trying to figure out what or where the favole are. Juggling flare and blaze, wondering about being on high twice, and finally coming back to Anew.

Reluctant I was a bit reluctant about, off and on. But lit up twice seemed okay finally as with on high. There's so much compressed starlike burning and returning of ardor, at the bright hot core of the interstellar vacancy of the original, I've at times felt tingly fingers just touching it. English was always going to have to cool down those thermals at least a bit, alas. Can't be helped, poor circulation, cold hands. Also when traveling in the stars I like having (or getting, which is harder) a few zzz's, whenever prudent.

Breezes and stirs, then keels over.



Thanks for all additional Ungaretti notes & comments here "chiseling away . . . . for nearly forty years" is a gift that keeps on giving. . . .

Zephirine said...

'scintillamente' must be one of the best words ever.

Beautiful translation/distillation, Tom.

TC said...

Yes, Zeph, we Anglos simply don't have such exquisite words.

"Scintillatingly" -- ? (Hardly.)

u.v.ray. said...

Funny you should say. I was only vaguely aware of Ungaretti and hadn't read any of his work until I read someone comparing my work to his.

I can only say, after checking him out, I was unjustly elevated; but flattered non-the-less.