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Variations On Nothing

Rating: 5.0

That negligible bit of sand which slides
Without a sound and settles in the hourglass,
And the fleeting impressions on the fleshy-pink,
The perishable fleshy-pink, of a cloud...

Then a hand that turns over the hourglass,
The going back for flowing back, of sand,
The quiet silvering of a cloud
In the first few lead-gray seconds of dawn...

The hand in shadow turned the hourglass,
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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Fabrizio Frosini 02 February 2016

another poem by Ungaretti (in Italian) : _____________________________ Giorno per giorno 4 Mai, non saprete mai come m’illumina L’ombra che mi si pone a lato, timida, Quando non spero più... 7 In cielo cerco il tuo felice volto, Ed i miei occhi in me null’altro vedano Quando anch’essi vorrà chiudere Iddio… 8 E t’amo, t’amo, ed è continuo schianto 9 Inferocita terra, immane mare Mi separa dal luogo della tomba Dove ora si disperde Il martoriato corpo… Non conta… Ascolto sempre più distinta Quella voce d’anima Che non seppi difendere quaggiù... M’isola, sempre più festosa e amica Di minuto in minuto, Nel suo segreto semplice… 13 Non più furori reca a me l’estate, Né primavera i suoi presentimenti; Puoi declinare, autunno, Con le tue stolte glorie: Per uno spoglio desiderio, inverno Distende la stagione più clemente! ... [G. Ungaretti, da “Il dolore”]

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Fabrizio Frosini 16 June 2015

here is the original Italian text: ''Variazioni su nulla'' Quel nonnulla di sabbia che trascorre Dalla clessidra muto e va posandosi, E, fugaci, le impronte sul carnato, Sul carnato che muore, d'una nube... Poi mano che rovescia la clessidra, Il ritorno per muoversi, di sabbia, Il farsi argentea tacito di nube Ai primi brevi lividi dell'alba... La mano in ombra la clessidra volse, E, di sabbia, il nonnulla che trascorre Silente, è unica cosa che ormai s'oda E, essendo udita, in buio non scompaia.

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Fabrizio Frosini 14 June 2015

Variations on Nothing first appeared in his 1950 collection La terra promessa (The Promised Land) . The subject in this poem is the fleeting time of human life and the endurance of nonhuman earthly objects. An hourglass may depend on a person's hand to turn it over in order to repeat its measurement of time, but when the hand is gone, the object continues to measure the passing of time.

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Andrew Frisardi 28 January 2008

Lovely poem. And yes, nostalgic and sad. The images are so delicate, as Ungaretti's imagery often was. That said, shame they don't credit the translator: me. OK, I'll credit him: translation by Andrew Frisardi, published in 'Giuseppe Ungaretti: Selected Poems, ' Farrar, Straus & Giroux (2002) , copyright ignored courtesy of Poem Hunter.

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Fabrizio Frosini 14 June 2015

thank you, Andrew!

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Bibhu Padhi 14 January 2008

A fine, compact poem, revolving around the single metaphor of the 'hour-glass.' Like all Ungaretti poems, this one has also a touch-just that slight touch-of sadness in it-a sadness that I have encountered in non-English poets of the twentieth century alone. I do not think poets in English-speaking countries have tasted that sadness enough to write about it. They are too much occupied with their 'local details' to be able to even experience it. Perhaps two of the few exceptions are the late American poets, William Stafford and Raymond Carver.

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