Wednesday, January 16, 2013

TC: Giuseppe Ungaretti: A Red Dress (12 September 1966)


Seated Woman: Egon Schiele, Vienna, 1913

You popped up at the gate
In a red dress
To tell me you're the flame
That consumes, yet ignites again.

A thorn from your carmine
Rose has pricked my finger
So that you may taste my blood, as though
It were already yours.

Loitering at the end of that street
That breaks open
The sky from within, I had already known
Long ago that, in suffering
With reckless faith for love,
Age counts as nothing.

That was on a Monday,
To hold hands
And talk pleasantly
We could find refuge only
In a sad garden
Of the convulsive city.

Nude with orange-red cloth: Egon Schiele, c. 1913

12 Settembre 1966
Sei comparsa al portone
in un vestito rosso
per dirmi che sei fuoco
che consuma e riaccende.
Una spina mi ha punto
delle tue rose rosse
perché succhiasse al dito,
come già tuo, il mio sangue.
Percorremmo la strada
che lacera il rigoglio
della selvaggia altura,
ma già da molto tempo
sapevo che soffrendo con temeraria fede,
l’età per vincere non conta.
Era di lunedì,
per stringerci le mani
e parlare felici
non si trovò rifugio
che in un giardino triste
della città convulsa.

Standing Woman in Red: Egon Schiele, 1913

The Green Stocking
: Egon Schiele, 1914

Wally with a Red Blouse: Egon Schiele, c. 1913

Giuseppe Ungaretti: 12 Settembre 1966 (12 September 1966) from Dialogo (Dialogue), 1968: translated by TC


TC said...

This poem comes from a collaboration with the young Brazilian poet Bruna Bianco: Ungaretti's nine love poems are his part of the "dialogue", counterposed with Bianco's five "response" poems.

In his late seventies, in October 1966, while on a trip to Sao Paolo to receive an honorary degree, Ungaretti attended a poetry conference, where he met and fell in love with one of the other poets at the conference, Bianco, a twenty-six-year old Italian-born law student from a Croatian family.

He rediscovered in her, as he would tell her in a letter, mio vivente amore di Poesia.

He returned twice to Brazil and over the next few years exchanged hundreds of letters and many poems with her. She visited him in Italy, and asked him to return with her to Brazil to live. He declined.

("He never even touched my knee," Bianco, who would carry on with a law career in Sao Paulo, marry and have three children, would later testify.)

Dialogo was issued hors du commerce in an edition of eighty copies on the occasion of Ungaretti's 80th birthday.

The story of the late-blooming love poems of the aged widower (Ungaretti's wife of thirty-eight years, Jeanne Dupoix, had died in 1958) took a further turn in 1996 with the publication of an article by Sebastian Grasso in Corriere delle Sera, revealing evidence that after a five-year "dry spell" in which the poet had written nothing, his renascent emotions had sparked poems which, in the process of composition, had drawn freely upon poems by other poets: Eliot, Quasimodo, Hikmet and, in particular, James Joyce's Pomes Pennyeach, from Chamber Music.

Before his death Ungaretti himself had quietly admitted that both the love affair and the poems had been desperate -- and doomed -- attempts to resist the inevitable. In 1969 he told his correspondent that his love for her still burned, but now only from "beneath the ashes".

His private secretary of that time later recalled that after getting back from the first trip to Brazil, he had thrown away his cane and appeared elated, "rejuvenated".

VANITAS said...

Poor devil! He might have touched her knee. In any event, a terrific poem. I love the translation, particularly:

"...I had already known
Long ago that, in suffering
With reckless faith for love,
Age counts as nothing."

But it is all amazing. And your combination of it with the images of ES is mind-boggling. How hot is that?