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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Secret of the Poet (After Ungaretti)

File:Helkivad ööpilved Kuresoo kohal.jpg

Noctilucent clouds, Kuresoo bog, Soomaa National Park, Estonia: photo by Martin Koitmäe, 2009

I only friend the night
With her, time is not

A waiting in vain for the hours to go by
It is a slippage of instants

A trembling of the pulse
From which I can't turn away

So that
Dragged out of the shadows

Hope sparks up
In the silence


File:Laser Towards Milky Ways Centre.jpg

Laser beam directed toward the centre of the Milky Way from Yepun laser star guide facility at ESO Paranal Observatory, Chile, crossing the southern sky and creating an artificial star at 90 km. altitude in Earth's mesosphere: photo by ESO/Yuri Beletsky, 2010

After Giuseppi Ungaretti: Segreto del poeta (Secret of the poet) from La terra promessa (The promised land), 1950


u.v.ray. said...

Ahh, Giuseppi Ungaretti.

His writing is never as simple as it looks, is it?

I don't know how it is in America but few bookshops here keep his work on the shelves. It's a crime.

TC said...


I'm a bit past shops any more, but I'd guess the same absence of Ungaretti prevails here.

The thing is, though, his resolute determination to go ahead and be hermetic and damn the torpedos -- well, I suppose that sealed the fate of his work, to be an esoteric taste among the few of us.

In Italy of course things are different, naturally, one would think. He is their great poet of the XX century.



Thanks for this look at those night-lit clouds, Ungaretti noting "a slippage in instants . . . From which I can't turn away . . . So that/ Dragged out of shadows". . . .


orange edge of sun rising below branches
of trees, white circle of moon by branch
in foreground, waves sounding in channel

the fact that this has time
of day, say that self

in other words, and thought,
is so little taken in

grey-white of sky reflected in channel,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...


Well, there's maybe a bit of pulverized orange edge in that laser beam.

Ray has suggested Ungaretti's "writing is never as simple as it looks". Attempts at translation immediately confirm this. This poem is from perhaps Ungaretti's most hermetic and abstract work, La Terra Promessa. Yet there is also something palpable in it, something one can feel and touch.

At any rate, after several drafts I abandoned Ungaretti's last three lines, which my English didn't seem to want to admit into the enterprise. It's that large liberty, as well as a series of smaller liberties, on my part, which caused me to refrain from representing this as a proper translation.

Perhaps the most libertine of the little liberties is the first line, where I imagine a literal translation employing a makeshift English verb, as "to friend". Of course no such verb exists in English... or I should say existed. Now there does.

So I imagined Ungaretti's narrator talking Facebook-ese.

Here is Ungaretti's original:

Solo ho amica la notte.
Sempre potrò trascorrere con essa
D'attimo in attimo, non ore vane;
Ma tempo cui il mio palpito trasmetto
Come m'aggrada, senza mai

Avviene quando sento,
Mentre riprende a distaccarsi da ombre,
La speranza immutabile
In me che fuoco nuovamente scova
E nel silenzio restituendo va,
A gesti tuoi terreni
Talmente amati che immortali parvero,

SarahA said...

I saw this last night and fell in love with her, although I did not have time to tell her so; I just marked such in 'Google Reader' to remind me to return and let her know.
The way she opens her curtains holds me and then how she closes such, will keep me in her memory; memory of her.

Anonymous said...

I love this (or as SarahA says "her"). As with your Stevens poem on Vanitas, although I generally try to read and experience the poem-as-poem, rather than as therapy, this speaks to me (especially after the last long moment-to-moment night) very directly. "It is a slippage of instants/A trembling of the pulse/
From which I can't turn away". I will immediately adopt this as a point of view and a strategy.
The Chilean observatory image is magnificent. For a moment I thought it said "ESO Paranormal Observatory", which made it really intriguing. The use of "friend" as a verb here is great, possibly Step 1 in an as yet unclear rescue mission.



More thanks to you for these further thoughts on your "Segreto del poeta" --- "Hope sparks up// Again" indeed, reading this this Thanksgiving morning. . . .


orange edge of sun rising below branches
of trees, whiteness of moon above branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

now takes the form of there
everywhere, from same

sentence to sentence, point
as far as, picture of

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
whiteness of gull flapping toward point

TC said...

SarahA and Curtis,

Many, many thanks. She was very pleased to hear such.


"What whiteness, what candour" EP

Thank you for the lovely Chinese/Bolinasian clarity, observation, light -- in perpetuity.


Thanks Tom, sends me back to the Cantos to look for that line -- and keep thinking of Ben Jonson's "Hymn to Charis ("O so white! O so soft! O so sweet is she!"). . . .

Anonymous said...

"with her, time is not"

TC said...


what whiteness will you add to this whiteness, what candor?




if only

with her

time were not