poetry > spring 2016

Tu ti spezzasti

Giuseppe Ungaretti

I molti, immani, sparsi, grigi sassi
Frementi ancora alle segrete fionde
Di originarie fiamme suffocate
Od ai terrori di fiumane vergini
Ruinanti in implacabili carezze,
—Sopra l’abbaglio della sabbia rigidi
In un vuoto orizzonte, non rammenti?

E la recline, che s’apriva all’unico
Raccogliersi dell’ombra nella valle,
Araucaria, anelando ingigantita,
Volta nell’ardua selce d’erme fibre
Più delle altre dannate refrattaria,
Fresca la bocca di farfalle e d’erbe
Dove dale radici si tagliava,
—Non la rammentii delirante mura
Sopra tre palmi d’un rotondo ciottolo
In un perfetto bilico
Magicamente apparsa?

Di ramo in ramo fiorrancino lieve
Ebbri di meraviglia gli avidi occhi
Ne conquistavi la screziata cima,
Temerario, musico bimbo,
Solo per rivedere all’imo lucido
D’un fondo e quieto baratro di mare
Favolose testuggini
Ridestarsi fra le alghe.

Della natura estrema la tensione
E le subacquee pompe,
Funebri moniti.

Alzavi le braccia come ali
E ridavi nascita al vento
Correndo nel peso dell’aria immota.

Nessuno mai vide posare
Il tuo lieve piede di danza.

Grazia, felice,
Non avresti potuto non spezzarti
In una cecità tanto indurita
Tu semplice soffio e cristallo,

Troppo umano lampo per l’empio,
Selvoso, accanito, ronzante
Ruggito d’un sole ignudo.

You, you broke yourself

translated from Italian by Anna Carapellotti

The many, immense, lifeless stones
Trembling still in secret slings
Of already smothered flames
Or the terrors of virgin floods
Rushing relentless—
Rigid above the sand’s blind glare
On an infinitely empty horizon,
Don’t you remember?

And the Araucaria
Leaning, opening to be the only
Gathering of shadows in the valley,
Craving growth
Curving its fibers into the arduous stone
Resilient, more so than the other damned,
Lips lively with butterflies and budding grass
Intersecting with severed roots—
Don’t you remember that restless silence?
As if by magic, it appeared
Above three spans of a smooth stone
In perfectly precarious balance.

From branch to branch a breezy kinglet
Drunk from wonder, your eager eyes
Conquering the mottled summit
Fearless, musical child
Only to gaze again into the glittering depth
Of a deep and peaceful ocean chasm.
Fabulous tortoises
Awaking again among algae.

In nature’s tremendous tension
And underwater splendor,
Were mournful warnings.

You spread your arms like wings
And gave life back to the wind
Suspended in the impenetrable air.

No one ever saw you rest
Your light, dancing feet.

Grace, happiness, you,
Who could not help but break
Against such callous blindness—
You, fragile breath and crystal.

Undeniably human, a flash of light
Feral, tenacious, purring—
The roar of a naked sun.

Note on Translation

I have translated Giuseppe Ungaretti’s “Tu ti spezzasti” (“You broke yourself”). Ungaretti (1888-1970) was an Italian poet, born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. He wrote his first volume of poetry in the trenches during World War I while serving in the Italian Army. He is known for breaking away from the traditional Italian form, his works characterized by obscure language and experimental meter. Ungaretti lived in Brazil from 1936 to 1942, where he taught Italian Literature at the University of São Paolo. While living in Brazil, his nine-year-old son died tragically from appendicitis, which is what “Tu ti spezzasti” is about. Published in his collection Il dolore (1947), “Tu ti spezzasti” is full of dolore (pain/grief) as it describes a memory of his fragile son playing among the Araucaria trees in Brazil’s intense landscape. Like many of his poems, the tone is nostalgic, which I have attempted to capture here. I chose to translate this poem because it is regarded as one of Ungaretti’s finest works, and I find it to be beautifully intimate.

ANNA CARAPELLOTTI is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring

in Cognitive Science. Her love of learning languages began at the Atlanta International School, where she studied Spanish, French, and Latin. Having grown up in an Italian-American family, she was thrilled to have the opportunity to formally study Italian at Penn. Anna is a lover of Italian literature and a novice translator of poetry. She formerly worked as a translator for Watching America, an organization that provides foreign perspective on current American issues by making available in English articles written about the U.S. by foreign news sources.