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L’Allegria: Seven translations of Ungaretti

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A Selection of Translations by Wally Swist from the Italian of Giuseppe Ungaretti, from L’Allegria





            Valloncello dell’Albero Isolato il 22 agosto 1916



Fermato a due sassi


sotto qauesta

volta appannata

di celo


Il groviglio dei sentieri

possiede la mia cecita


Nulla e piu saqauallido

di questa monotonia


Una volta

non sapevo

ch’e una cosa



la consunzione serale

del cielo


E sulla mia terra affricana


a un arpeggio

person nell’aria

mi rinnovavao




            Valloncello dell’Albero Isolato il 22 agosto 1916



Stopped at two stones

I languish

beneath this vault


with heaven


The tangle of these paths

are in possession of my blindness


Nothing is more squalid

than my monotony



I did not

know anything


even the evening


of the sky


And on my African land

I calmed down

to an arpeggio

a person renewed in the air

I remade myself


La Notte Bella


            Devetachi il 24 agosto 1916



Quale canto s’e levato stanotte

che intesse

di cristallina eco del cuore

le stelle


Quale festa sorgiva

di cuore a nozze


Sono stato

uno stagno di buio


Ora mordo

come un bambino la mammilla

lo Spazio


Ora sono ubriaco




The Beautiful Night


            Devetachi il 24 agosto 1916



What song has risen tonight

that weaves the stars

within the crystal echo

of the heart


What an enthusiastic

wedding feast


I have been a stagnant

pond of darkness


Now like a baby

at their mother’s breast

I suckle space itself


Now I am drunk

with the universe




            Devetachi il 24 agosto 1916



Col mare

mi sono fatto

una bara

de freschezza




            Devetachi il 24 agosto 1916



With the sea

I have made myself

a coffin

of freshness




            Da Devetachi al San Michele il 25 agosto 1916



Questa dossi di monti

si sono coricati

nel lbuio delle valli

Non c’e piu niente

che un gorgoglio

di grilli che mi raggunge


E s’accompagna

alla mia inquietudine




            Da Devetachi al San Michele il 29 agosto 1916



These bulges of mountains

lay in the darkness

of the valleys

there is nothing more

than a murmuring

of crickets reaching me


And it accompanies

my restlessness


San Martino Del Carso


            Valloncello dell’Albero Isolata il 27 agosto 1916



Di queste case

non e rimasto

che qualche

brandello di muro


Di tanti

che mi corrispondevano

non e rimasto

neppure tanto


Ma nel  cuore

nessuna croce manca


E il mio curore

il paese piu straziato


San Martino Del Carso


            Valloncello dell’Albero Isolata il 27 agosto 1916



Of these houses

there is nothing

but a few shreds of wall

that remain


Of the many

that looked like me

not even much

has remained


But there are no crosses

missing in the heart


And it is my heart

that is the most torn country




            Locvizza il 28 settembre 1916



Con la mia fame di lupo


il mio corpo di pecorella


Sono come

la misera barca

e come l’oceano libidinoso




            Locvizza il 28 settembre 1916



With my wolf hunger

I love

my sheep’s body


I am like

a miserable boat

and like the lustful ocean





            Locvizza l’r ottobre 1916



Sono un poeta

un grido  unamime

sono  un grumo di sogni


Sono un frutto

d’innumerevoloi contrasti d’innesti

maturate in una serra


Ma il tuo poplo e portato

dalla stressa terra

che mi porta



E in uesta uniforme

di tuo soldato

mi  riposo

come fosse la culla

di mio padre




            Locvizza l’r ottobre 1916



I am a poet

a unanimous cry

a wad of dreams


A fruit

of innumerable conflicting grafts

ripened in greenhouse


But the same earth

brings your people

that brings me



In this uniform

of a soldier

I rest

as if I were in

the cradle of my father.




Wally Swist

Wally Swist has published over forty books and chapbooks of poetry and prose, including Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), Daodejing: An Introduction (Lamar University Press, 2015), Awakening & Visitation, and Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020), with Shanti Arts Books.

His latest book of essays and newest collection of poetry, Taking Residence, was published in 2021 by Shanti Arts.  A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New & Selected Essays & Reviews is forthcoming by Shanti Arts.


Giuseppe Ungaretti (8 February 1888 – 2 June 1970), Italian modernist poet, journalist, essayist, critic, and academic  Influenced by symbolism, especially the French-Romanian poet Tristan Tzara, he was briefly aligned with futurism, Ungaretti lead the experimental trend known as Ermetismo ("Hermeticism"), in which he advocated “a personal approach to poetry,” and  became one of the most significant contributors to 20th century Italian literature. Ungaretti debuted as a poet while fighting in the trenches in WWI, later publishing his iconic and possibly best-known book, L'Allegria (Cheerfulness, Swist translation). During the interwar period, he was a foreign-based correspondent, but after spending several years in Brazil, he returned to Italy during World War II, and was assigned a teaching post at the University of Rome, where he spent his final decades. In 1970, he was the initial recipient of the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature, awarded biennially by World Literature Today.  


Main image: The Morning by Umberto Boccioni, 1909 Milan (Wikimedia Commons)

Topic tags: poetry, Wally Swist, Ungaretti



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Sublime in Italian. In English too.

Pam | 31 August 2021  

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