Umberto Saba, who was born in Trieste in 1883 and died in Gorizia in 1957,is considered one of the foremost Italian poets of the first half of the XX century. He was a friend of Nobel prizewinning poet Eugenio Montale. Saba suffered racial persecution during WWII (his mother was Jewish) and went into hiding in Florence. He was a tortured soul with a deep sense of anguish. His symptoms suggest he suffered from a depressive illness, and his moods are reflected in his poetry. He lived most of his life in Trieste where he owned an antiquarian bookshop, and many of his poems are set in the city’s alleyways. Here are two short poems which I find really accessible and appealing.
Vagammo tutto il pomeriggio in cerca
d’un luogo a fare di due vite una.
Rumorosa la vita, adulta, ostile,
minacciava la nostra giovinezza.
Ma qui giunti ove ancor cantano i grilli,
quanto silenzio sotto questa luna.
Here is a good translation I found on the internet – the translator’s name was not included.
Places dear to me
We wondered all the afternoon in search
of a place to make two lives one.
Noisy life! Adult, hostile!
that threatened our youth.
But here, where the crickets sing,
how much silence under this moon.
Sera di febbraio
Spunta la luna.
Nel viale è ancora
giorno, una sera che rapida cala.
Indifferente gioventù s’allaccia;
sbanda a povere mete.
Ed è il pensiero
della morte che, in fine, aiuta a vivere.
You can hear Umberto Saba recite this poem by clicking on http://vimeo.com/16934618. My literal translation follows.
The moon appears. / The avenue is still / in daylight, the evening rapidly approaches. / Indifferent young people lace up; veer towards poor destinations. / And it is the thought / of death that, in the end, helps to live.