Giuseppe Ungaretti.

Variations On Nothing - Poem by Giuseppe Ungaretti.

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,
And the negligible bit of sand which slides
And is silent, is the only thing now heard,
And, being heard, doesn't vanish in the dark.

Comments about Variations On Nothing by Giuseppe Ungaretti.

  • Fabrizio Frosini (2/2/2016 12:30:00 PM)

    another poem by Ungaretti (in Italian) :

    Giorno per giorno

    Mai, non saprete mai come m’illumina
    L’ombra che mi si pone a lato, timida,
    Quando non spero più...

    In cielo cerco il tuo felice volto,
    Ed i miei occhi in me null’altro vedano
    Quando anch’essi vorrà chiudere Iddio…

    E t’amo, t’amo, ed è continuo schianto

    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…

    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 (6/16/2015 5:06:00 AM)

    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.
    (Report) Reply

  • Fabrizio Frosini (6/14/2015 4:19:00 AM)

    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.
    (Report) Reply

  • Fabrizio Frosini (6/14/2015 4:18:00 AM)

    Giuseppe Ungaretti was born February 10,1888, in Alexandria, Egypt. His parents were Italian immigrants who moved to Egypt when his father accepted a job as a laborer on the construction of the Suez Canal. When Ungaretti was two years old, his father died, and his mother supported the family with earnings from a job at a bakery in an Italian section of Alexandria. Ungaretti attended schools in Egypt until 1912, when he left for Paris to study at the Sorbonne. During his university years, Ungaretti became acquainted with various artists and poets, including Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire, and his own poems were first published in 1915 in a French journal.

    At the beginning of World War I, Ungaretti was sent to fight in Carso in northern Italy, the scene of some of the war's bloodiest battles. His horrific experiences there became the subject of much of his early poetry.
    (Report) Reply

  • (1/28/2008 4:59:00 AM)

    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.
    (Report) Reply

    Fabrizio Frosini (6/14/2015 4:20:00 AM)

    thank you, Andrew!

  • (1/14/2008 9:12:00 PM)

    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. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: pink, dark

Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 9, 2003

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