Umberto Saba

Nella mia giovinezza ho navigato
lungo le coste dalmate. Isolotti
a fior d’onda emergevano, ove raro
un uccello sostava intento a prede,
coperti d’alghe, scivolosi, al sole
belli come smeraldi. Quando l’alta
marea e la notte li annullava, vele
sottovento sbandavano più al largo,
per fuggirne l’insidia. Oggi il mio regno
è quella terra di nessuno. Il porto
accende ad altri i suoi lumi; me al largo
sospinge ancora il non domato spirito,
e della vita il doloroso amore.


Umberto Saba

In my youth I sailed
along the Dalmatian coasts. Islets
skimmed the surface of the waves, where
the rare bird alighted in search of prey,
covered in algae, slippery, under the sun
fine as emeralds. When the high
tide and the night razed them, sails
in the wind veered towards the open sea,
to escape their perils. Today my reign
is that no-man’s-land. The harbor
lights call to other men; my spirit
untamed thrusts me still into the open sea,
and of life the painful love.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi


Umberto Saba was an Italian poet and novelist, born in Trieste. He is positioned alongside Eugenio Montale and Giuseppe Ungaretti as one of the three most important Italian poets of the first half of the twentieth century.
The poem Ulysses, from the collection Mediterranee, 1948, is a sort of spiritual testament in which Saba recalls his youth and maturity, comparing his existence, although he knows that “the harbor lights call to other men”, his spirit is thrust to the open sea.

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One thought on “Ulisse/Ulysses by Umberto Saba

  1. thank you. I have always loved this poem. I needed to look at this because of a few words I was uncertain of. An exquisite coda to the Odyssey, i.e what happened then?


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