Trieste (‘Ho attraversata tutta la città’)

I traversed the whole city.

Then climbed a hill,

crowded at first, in the end deserted,

closed off by a little wall,

a corner, where I alone

sit, and, to me, it seems: where it ends

the city ends.

Trieste has a sullen

grace; it’s a delinquent,

if you like– bitter, voracious,

with blue eyes, hands too clumsy

to offer flowers;

like love

possessed by jealousy.

From this hill I discover every church,

Follow every street to the cluttered shore,

or the stony slope, on whose

summit a house, the last one, clings.


surrounding all these things

a strange air, a tormented air,

the native air.

My city, alive in every part,

has left this corner for me, for my life,

pensive, and quiet.

I loved (‘Amai trite parole che non uno osava’)

I loved trite words, that no one dared.

The flowery rhyme enchanted me


the oldest difficulty of all.

I loved the truth that lies in the deep;

an almost forgotten dream that sadness

finds a friend. With fear the heart

accosts it, that no longer deserts it.

I love you who hear me, who leave me

One decent card at the end of the game.

Winter Noon (‘In quel momento ch’ero già felice’)

At that moment when I was still happy

(God forgive that great and terrible

word) what almost changed my joy

to tears? You’ll say: ‘Some

lovely creature passing by

that smiled at you.’ No, a balloon,

a turquoise balloon, drifting

through the blue sky, with the native

air never so bright, in the cold

clear noon of a winter’s day.

The sky with a little white cloud,

and the windows alight in the sun,

and meagre smoke from a chimney or two,

and, above those things, divine

things, the sphere that escaped a child’s

incautious hand (surely, he wept,

in the midst of the crowd, out of grief,

his terrible grief) between the Stock

Exchange and the Coffee House where

I sat, clear-eyed, admiring his prize,

beyond the glass, now rising, now falling.

Ulysses (‘Nella mia giovinezza ho navigato’)

In the days of my youth, I sailed

the Dalmatian Coast. Tiny islands

emerged on the face of the sea,

slippery, weed-covered, sun-bright as emeralds,

where sometimes a bird perched, intent on prey.

When high tide and night annulled them, sails

downwind dispersed more widely,

or fled from danger. Today my kingdom

is precisely that no-man’s-land.

The harbour scatters its light for others;

an untamed spirit drives me onward,

and a sorrowful love of life.

Mediterranean (‘Penso un mare lontano, un porto, ascose’)

I think of a distant sea, a harbour, the hidden

streets of that harbour where once I was;

and am here, raising my hands once more

to beg the gods not to punish me,

for the final victory I disdain

(yet my heart, for sweetness, can hardly bear)

I think of a gloomy Siren,

– kisses, drunkenness, delirium – I think of Ulysses,

rising there from a melancholy bed.

Star (‘Stella, che m’hai veduto un giorno nascere’)

Star, that saw me born one day,

– crossing the sky when I first appeared –

in fair exchange for all the ills,

that, naked and helpless, I received

let me soon, gladly, reach the other

shore, every line cancelled, injustice

silent, loneliness a burden no more,

beyond your orbit that I’ll reach,

O you that crossed the sky, fatally.

Ulysses (‘O tu che sei si triste ed hai presagi’)

O you who are so sad and feel presentiments

of horrors – Ulysses, in decline – is there no

sweetness distilled in your spirit

no Longing

for a pale

dreamer of shipwrecks

who loves you?

Amorous Melancholy (‘Malinconia amorosa’)

Amorous melancholy

of the heart

like a secret care, a solitary fervour,

ever more intimate and deeper,

through you a sweet thought’s married

to a bitter memory,

dispels the boredom festering inside,

and accompanies you then through life.

The amorous melancholy

of the youth behind the counter

seated there, who sees,

bent o’er the fabrics, the loveliest

women of the city; a dark torment

to the dreamer

who with the first stars, already

shedding a little light on his path,

thinks of those who know what love is,

and its anguish,

climbs the long stony slope of the hill,

from which the houses and the church above

look like toys, the workaday city

fading into the still bright horizon,

and with exaggerated pride, wounded

by life, is close to madness.

Loving melancholy

of my life,

the first and last wound of the heart;

that, to gather your fruits,

seeks waning shadows, dark places,

and, wandering slowly, by the wall,

fails to see what everybody sees,

and what no one else sees, adores.

Whitethorn (‘Di marzo per la via’)

In March, in the street

of the fountain,

the hedge has woken;

all white, but it’s not snow

this it’s hawthorn,

quivering at the first

sigh of dawn.

Summer Night (‘Dalla stanza vicina ascolto care’)

From the next room, I hear dear

voices, in the bed where I welcome sleep.

Through the open window, gleams a light,

far off, on the hill; who knows where?

Here, I hold you to my heart, my love,

dead to me now, for endless years.

Our Moment (‘Sai un’ora del giorno che più bella’)

Do you know a more beautiful time of day

than evening? More

beautiful and less loved? That hour

which precedes the sacred hours of idleness;

the hour when work is intense, and a crowd

of people are seen in the streets;  

above, the squared mass of the houses,

a shadowy moon, one you can scarcely

discern in the quiet air.

It’s the time you abandon the countryside

to take joy in your dear city,

from the gulf to the mountains

various aspects in its beauty unite;

the hour when my life in flood flows

like a river to the sea;

and my thoughts: the swift tread

of the crowd, the workman atop

his ladder, the boy racing to leap

on his rumbling cart, all seem

to freeze in the act, all motion

acquires the look of immobility.

It is the great hour, the hour that best

attends our time of harvesting.

The Leaf (‘Io sono come quella foglia, guarda’)

I am like that leaf, look,

on the bare branch, to which wonder

still attaches.

Ignore me then. Don’t be saddened

by my vast age that fills you with anxiety,

and lingers here in childish outbursts.

Wish me farewell, though there’s no need to say it.

Dying is nothing; it’s losing you is hard.

Nietzsche (‘Intorno a una grandezza solitaria’)

Around a solitary greatness

no birds fly, nor do those wanderers

make their nests nearby, you hear

nothing but silence, see nothing but air.

Amor (‘Ti dico addio quando ti cerco Amore’)

I say farewell when I look for you Amor,

As my age, and these grey hairs, demand.

Oh, in you was the shadow of Earth and Sun,

And the heart of a boy lacking heart.

Homeward (‘Anima, se ti pare che abbastanza’)

If it seems to you, my spirit, we have wandered

for long enough to have reached evening,

shall we enter our room, close the door,

and there create something of the Spring?

Trieste, new city

of adolescent masculinity

grown without form without measure

between the harsh hills and the sea

where there’s been no time for art

or, if there has, it’s in the hearts

of those who live here, in its youthful

colour, its varied movement;

we’ve explored it all, to the furthest

corner, this strangest of cities.

Now that with evening the need

revives to return also to ourselves,

shall we enter, where with deep love

I hear you, where you can make good

an ancient error?

From the most relentless of pains,

from harshest and deepest misery,

my spirit, we’ll make a poem today.

Drunken Songs (‘Ebbri canti si levano e bestemmie’)

Drunken songs and blasphemies rise

from the suburban hostelry. This too

– I know – is the Mediterranean. And my thoughts

are drunk on the azure of that name.

Rome is impregnable maternal calm.

Greece falls in love with its shores

like an adolescent. Judea darkens

and renews the world. No other beneath

the sun so smiles on me in my old age.

Ancient lost sea…Even the Muse,

born of you, wishes me to speak

one word of you, with darkness at the door.

From a Hill (‘Era d’ottobre; l’ora vespertina’)

It was October; the evening hour

Filled with peace, and the heart with sweetness;

The path solitary on the hill,

Climbing behind an ox, and a farmer.

At the summit, I glimpsed, in splendour,

Trieste, the churches, the coastline,

And in a grove, like a crimson flower,

A beloved house on the further slope.

The ringing from the belltowers reached me,

And as the sun set on the horizon

It made the windows of the houses burn.

I leaned against a pine-tree, blissfully,

I lifted a low branch there, sighing,

And gave a name, a dear name, to the breeze.

Via del Monte (‘A Trieste ove son tristezze molte’)

In Trieste, where there are many sorrows,

and beauties of sky and cityscape,

there’s a hill called the Via del Monte.

It starts with a synagogue,

and ends in a cloister; mid-way

there’s a chapel; from it, a dark ardour

for life might discover a meadow,

the sea with ships, and the promontory,

the crowds and stalls of the market.

And, on the hill’s flank, a cemetery,

abandoned now, where no funeral parties

have appeared, no burials, for as long

as I can remember, the old cemetery

of the Jews; so dear to my thoughts,

as I think of you, my ancestors, after all

your sufferings and dealings, buried there,

all alike in spirit, and in face.

Index by First Line

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved

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