Salvatore Quasimodo was born in Sicily in 1901 and died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Naples in 1968. For the latter half of his life he chose to live and work in Milan. Despite pursuing engineering as a vocation, he devoted himself to full-time writing from the age of 37, translated Greek and Latin authors, and contributed to literary reviews and reputable publications. Together with Eugenio Montale (a Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1975) and Giuseppe Ungaretti, Quasimodo is one of the major Italian poets of the 20th century. He was part of the Hermetic Movement which was characterised by obscure poetry, subjective imagery, and a focus on the suggestive power of the sound of the words. In 1959 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times”.
In this poetry he was often inspired by images of the South. In this issue I include the poem S’ode ancora il mare, and in the next edition I will include Lamento per il sud. The translation is by Canberra poet Geoff Page and Loredana Nardi-Ford.
S’ode ancora il mare
Già da più notti s’ode ancora il mare,
lieve, su e giù, lungo le sabbie lisce.
Eco d’una voce chiusa nella mente
che risale dal tempo; ed anche questo
lamento assiduo di gabbiani: forse
d’uccelli delle torri, che l’aprile
sospinge verso la pianura. Già
m’eri vicina tu con quella voce;
ed io vorrei che pure a te venisse,
ora, di me un’eco di memoria,
come quel buio murmure di mare.
Still hearing the sea
For several nights already / we can hear the sea, still / lightly, lift and fall along smooth sands. / An echo of a voice within the mind / that rises from the past once more; and also this / assiduous lament of gulls; birds / from the towers perhaps that April / forces to the plain. Once / with that voice you were beside me / and I would like you too to have / an echo now of memory from me / like that dark murmur of the sea.