19 agosto 1916

Quale canto

s’è levato stanotte

che intesse

di cristallina eco del cuore

le stelle

quale festa sorgiva

di cuore a nozze

sono stato

uno stagno

di buio

ora mordo

come un bambino la mamella

lo spazio

ora sono ubriaco


August 19, 1916

What song
arose tonight
weaving a tapestry
of stars
from the crystal echo of the heart
what upwelling feast
of a heart at wedding
I have been
a stagnant pool of darkness
Now I bite
into space
like a child his mother's breast.
Now I am drunk
on universe

translations by John Plant unless otherwise noted
La notte bella, by Giuseppe Ungaretti

En una noche oscura
Con ansias en amores enflamada,

¡O dichosa ventura!

Salí sin ser notada

Estando ya mi casa sosegada.


A oscuras, y segura

Por la segreta scala disfrazada

¡O dichosa ventura!

a oscuras, y en celada

estando ya mi casa sosegada.


En la noche dichosa

En segreto, que nadie me veía,

Ni yo miraba cosa

Sin otra luz y guía

Sino la que en el corazon ardía.


Aquesta me guiaba

Mas cierto que la luz del mediodía

Adonde me esperaba

Quien yo bien me sabía

En parte donde nadie parecía.


¡O noche que guiaste,

O noche mas amable que el alborada,

O noche que juntaste

Amado con amada,

Amada en el Amado transformada!


En mi pecho florído

Que entero para él solo se guardaba

Allí quedó dormido

Y yo le regalaba

Y el ventalle de los cedros aire daba.


El aire de la almena

Quando yo sus cabellos esparcía

Con su mano sereno

En mi cuello hería

Y todos mis sentidos suspendía.


Quedéme y olvidéme,

El rostro recliné sobre el Amado.

Cesó todo, y dejéme,

Dejando mi cuidado

Entre las azucenas olvidado..

Canciones del alma, by San Juan de la Cruz/St. John of the Cross

In a dark night
burning with desire
-O fortunate adventure!-

I departed unnoticed
when the house was hushed.


In darkness and in saftey

By the secret stairway, disguised,

-O fortunate advenutre!-

in darkness, in concealment,

when my house was hushed.


In the blessed night

and in secret - for no one saw me-

and I saw nothing-

I had no light, no guide

save the light which burned in my heart.


But that light guided me

more surely than the light of noon

towards the one who was waiting for me,

-oh, well I knew who it was! -

in a place where no one could be.


O night which guided me!

O night, more pleasant than dawn!

O night, which united

the Lover with his Beloved,

transforming the Beloved into the Lover!


On my flowering breast-

which I reserved for him alone-

he fell asleep

and I caressed him

and the rustling cedars fanned us.


The breeze upon the ramparts

as I caressed his hair-

with his gentle hand

he wounded my neck

and suspended all my senses.


I departed from myself, I forgot myself
Resting my head upon the Beloved,
everything stopped, and I took leave of myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

Poikilothron, athanat' Aphrodita
Pai Dios doloploke, lissomai se,

me m'asaisi med'oniaisi damna,

potnia, thumon,

alla tuid' elth', ai pota katerota

tas emas audas aoisa, pelui

eklues, patros de domon lipoisa

chrusion elthes

arm'upadzeuksaisa. Kaloi de s'agon

okees struthoi peri gas melainas

pukna dinnentes pter' ap'oran'aithe-

ros dia messo.

Aipsa d'exikonto. Su d' O makaira,

mediaisais athanato' prosopo'

ere otti deute pepontha kotti

deute kalemmi,

kotti moi malista thelo genesthai

mainola thumon. Tina deute peitho

aps' agen es san philotata. Tis, s'O

Psaph', adikei?

Kai gar ai feugei, tacheos dioxei,

ai de dora me deket, alla dosei,

ai de me philei, tacheos phileisei

kouk etheloisa.

Elthe moi kai nun, chalepan de lusan

ek merimnan, ossa de moi telessai

thumos immerei, telesson, su d'auta

summachos esso.

Throned in many-hued glory, deathless Aphrodite,
child of Zeus, weaver of ruses, I beg you,
do not condemn my heart to pangs
and torments, O queen,

But come to me now, as once before,
hearing my cries, you came
from afar, leaving your father's
golden house,

Yoking your chariot, drawn by many beautiful
sparrows over the dark earth,
a multitude of fluttering wings descending
through middle air.

Quickly they came! And you, Glorious One,
with a smile playing on your deathless face,
you asked 'What has befallen you now? Why have you
summoned me again,

What is the deepest wish of your troubled heart?
Whom shall I persuade to return
to your friendship? Who, O Sappho,
is wronging you?

She may run from you now, but soon she will be in pursuit. Though she refuses your gifts, soon it will be she who offers them. And even if she loves you not, soon she will love,
even against her will.'

So come to me once again! Free me

from this woeful torment! Fulfill all the desires

of my mad heart, let them be accomplished! You yourself

be my companion in battle!

Invocation to Aphrodite, poem by Sappho

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