Ungaretti ‘Allegria’ (translated by Brock)

Got a copy of this. From the earlier poems, I enjoyed the boredom


This night too will pass

This moving solitude
tentative shadows of tram wires
on damp asphalt

I watch the big heads of the coachmen
half sleeping

A later collection, ‘The Buried Harbour’ (I like the figure of himself as both “wretched boat / and the lecherous ocean”), written in the trenches is this translation’s centrepiece. I did not enjoy the only poem that Ungaretti edited in 1969 just before his death, which ends with the confession that “Now I am / universe-drunk”

His treatment of other soldiers is interesting; he seems to want to shatter the world so that he might make them cohere. My favourite poem (and in another he seems to tonally compare himself to a mirage – as what he needs for courage):


That country soldier
trusts in his medal
of St. Anthony
and walks lightly

But I who have no mirage
carry my soul
alone and naked

I can’t read Italian, but the translation feels good. I would say that the appeal is a kind of heroic humility, one which could end up as bathetic, in that the mood, which is light, might be stilted (if you want to compare the Pisan Cantos and its comic treatment of Pound’s co-prisoners, and how without an empathic reading you might invert the two claims, at least for Pound’s less racist poetry). Anyway, a talented poet, but one whom I may not like.