You are currently viewing lighted in its silence
Robert Wilhelm Ekman, Palazzolo, Italian Landscape, 1839.

Language: Italian
Poet: Salvatore Quasimodo
Translator: Charles Guenther
Region: Italy

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lighted in its silence

A poem by Salvatore Quasimodo, translated from Italian by Charles Guenther

Recipient of the 1959 Nobel Prize for Literature, Salvatore Quasimodo (1901– 1968) was a leader of the Hermetic movement. Educated as an engineer, he gave up that profession to teach Italian literature. He was the author of more than 10 volumes of poetry, including Giorno dopo Giorno (1947), from which the poem in this feature was taken. His later poems were deeply affected by WWII and its horrors. A prolific translator, he published translations of six Shakespeare plays, as well as works by Moliere, Pablo Neruda, and e.e. cummings.

Poet, critic, and essayist, Charles Guenther has been known as a prolific poetry translator for small presses. His work has appeared in more than 300 different magazines worldwide and in dozens of anthologies. He is the author of ten books of poetry and translations

Dalla rocca di Bergamo Alta

Hai udito il grido del gallo nell’aria
di là dalle murate, oltre le torri
gelide d’una luce che ignoravi,
grido fulmineo di vita, e stormire
di voci dentro le celle, e il richiamo
d’uccello della ronda avanti l’alba.
E non hai detto parole per te:
eri nel cerchio ormai di breve raggio:
e tacquero l’antilope e l’airone
persi in un soffio di fumo maligno,
talismani d’un mondo appena nato.
E passava la luna di febbraio
aperta sulla terra, ma a te forma
nella memoria, accesa al suo silenzio.
Anche tu fra i cipressi della Rocca
ora vai senza rumore; e qui l’ira
si quieta al verde dei giovani morti,
e la pietà lontana è quasi gioia.

From the Fortress of Upper Bergamo

You heard the cock crowing in the air
beyond the walls, beyond the castle towers,
in the cold light you didn’t recognize,
the lightning-cry of life, and the mumbling
of voices in the cells and the warning cry
of a bird circling the towers before dawn.
And you had nothing to say for yourself then:
by then you were encircled in brief rays;
and the antelope and heron became silent,
lost in a sudden puff of deadly smoke,
talismans of a world that’s scarcely born.
The February moon has now gone by
openly over the world, but only a form
within your memory, lighted in its silence.
Among the cypresses of the Fort you too
now move around silently; and here the rage
is silenced by the green of the young dead,
and the distant pity almost turns to joy.

This poem appeared in Issue 4 of Circumference, Volume 2, Issue 2 • Autumn | Winter 2005–2006
© 2005 circumference, Inc.