Primo Levi

(1919 - 1987 / Turin / Italy)

Shema - Poem by Primo Levi

You who live secure
In your warm houses
Who return at evening to find
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider whether this is a man,
Who labours in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or a no.
Consider whether this is a woman,
Without hair or name
With no more strength to remember
Eyes empty and womb cold
As a frog in winter.

Consider that this has been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are in your house, when you walk on your way,
When you go to bed, when you rise.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.

Translated by Ruth Feldman And Brian Swann

Anonymous submission.

Comments about Shema by Primo Levi

  • Fabrizio Frosini (9/12/2015 8:48:00 AM)

    Shemà è una parola ebraica (שמע) che significa “ascolta”; essa compare nell’espressione Shemà Israel (שמע ישראל, “Ascolta, Israele”)

    = Shema is a Hebrew word (שמע) which means listen; it appears in the expression ''Shema Israel'' (שמע ישראל, Hear, O Israel)

    26 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Fabrizio Frosini (9/12/2015 8:43:00 AM)


    Voi che vivete sicuri
    nelle vostre tiepide case,
    voi che trovate tornando a sera
    il cibo caldo e visi amici:
    considerate se questo è un uomo
    che lavora nel fango
    che non conosce pace
    che lotta per mezzo pane
    che muore per un sì o per un no.
    Considerate se questa è una donna,
    senza capelli e senza nome
    senza più forza di ricordare
    vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo
    come una rana d'inverno.
    Meditate che questo è stato:
    vi comando queste parole.
    Scolpitele nel vostro cuore
    stando in casa e andando per via,
    coricandovi alzandovi;
    ripetetele ai vostri figli.
    O vi si sfaccia la casa,
    la malattia vi impedisca,
    i vostri nati torcano il viso da voi.

    (Primo Levi - 10 Gennaio 1946.)

    January 10,1946

    23 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • (6/13/2005 6:43:00 AM)

    Brilliant poem...illustrates the suffering of one of the very few survivors of the most serious attrocity ever. Levi was a truly awesome wordsmith who preached his woes to a world that could never quite understand. (Report)Reply

    18 person liked.
    15 person did not like.
Read all 3 comments »

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: frog, house, food, strength, winter, woman, remember, children, hair, peace, women, rose, child

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004

Famous Poems

  1. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  5. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  6. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  7. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  8. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
    Mary Elizabeth Frye
  9. Television
    Roald Dahl
  10. I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
    Pablo Neruda
[Report Error]