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Giuseppe Ungaretti 213  Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888–1970) Little Monologue Under the rinds of trees, as through a vacancy, Sap is astir already, winding In a delirium of branches-to-be-budded: Uneasy in his sleep, winter Telling February the reason Why it must stay short; and moody Though he may be, he is no longer Secretively cheerless. As if Over some biblical calamity, To all appearances, the drop lifts Along a shore which from that moment Seeks to repopulate itself: From time to time, abrupt, re-emerging Tower follows tower; In search of Ararat once more Wanders the ark, afloat through solitudes; They are climbing up to limewash the dovecotes. Snow shifts from over the bramble stocks Across Maremma And Near and far, a continuous Cheeping whispering spreads through the air Where birds brood; Speeding from Foggia To Lucera the car Disquiets with its headlamps Foals in their stalls; In Corsica’s mountains, at Vivario, Men sitting out the night about the fire Under the room’s kerosene light, 214 Italian With blanched and shaggy beards Above hands heavy on sticks, Chewing unhurried pipes, they are listening To Ors’ Antone sing Accompanied by the murmur of the rivérgola Vibrating between the teeth Of the boy Ghiuvanni: Your fate is as gladHearted as mine is sad. Outside a trampling of feet Looms louder, mingled with the howls and gurgling Of swine they bring to be butchered, and butchered They are, for tomorrow Carnival begins, and still Through the windless air it goes on snowing. Forsaken, behind three Minute parish churches, Assembled in ranks across the slope Roofs red with tiles The newest houses And, Covered in washing The oldest almost invisible In the confusion of the dawn, The fragrant forest Of Vizzavona is crossed Without our ever being aware through the windows Of its larches save for their trunks, And seen only in scraps, And There is the time We climbed out of the Levant through mountains And the windings meandered even in the driver’s voice: Giuseppe Ungaretti 215  There was sun here, there shadow, shadow there, On he follows, repeating it to himself And whether east or west Always mountains, and worse— Where the knot of mountains begins to alternate— The spread of seclusion: Is there no term to the tedium of it? And, At more than a thousand Feet the car takes for its track A road hacked through the chain Narrow, icy Leaning over a chasm. The sky is a sky of sapphire And wears that clear colour Which in this month belongs there, February colour, Colour of hope. Down, down until it reaches To Ajaccio, such a sky As numbs one but not because it is cold, Because it is sibylline. Down, down the unending Incline until it encompasses A dark sea in whose Hidden windings a continual Roaring is stifled, and the processionals Of Neptune flow forth. It sails on into Pernambuco And, Alongside rocking skiffs, And hesitant lighters Over the lustre and elasticity of the water 216 Italian Thrusts into the tiny port The dark and nimble presence of its blade. Everywhere, up ships’ stairs, Through crammed streets, On the steps of trams, One meets with nothing that is not dancing Whether thing, beast or person, Day and night, and night And day, because it is Carnival. But at night they dance best, When, hazardous amid the gloom, Between sky and ground, hail down From the whirling of fireworks, flowers of fire— Accomplices of the night, Multiplying its ambiguities, Speckling the livid sea. All are suffocating with heat. The equator is a couple of steps away. Hardship harried the man from Europe Who must accustom himself To the upside-down seasons, And by making his blood More mixed than ever: Is not February the month for grafting? And still more did he suffer When his blood turned mulatto In that accursed coupling Of human souls with the labour of slaves; But, on southern ground, He found at last that he could oppose To the glare of those dog days The stare of his own more unexpected mask. And now he will never cease to charm This false February Giuseppe Ungaretti 217  And, Putrid with sweat and stench, Rolling their eyes they dance without pause Raucously, unendingly singing With the intent ingenuousness of the place: O irony, irony Was all he used to say. Recollection is the sign of age And today I have recalled A few halting places in my long stay On...


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