Chiuso fra cose mortali
(Anche il cielo stellato finirà)
Perché bramo Dio?
Enclosed among mortal things
(Even the starry sky will end)
Why do I long for God?
Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2021
“Dannazione” was written by Giuseppe Ungaretti on June 29, 1916, and is part of the collection L’allegria.
The poem, although very short, is divided into two parts: one of resignation and the other of hope. The key to understanding the poem lies, I believe, in the title Damnation: we are doomed, destined to die and conscious of these limits; yet, we hope to overcome them, we strive for something more, which can be found only through God.
In the first verse the poet underlines the fact that he is mortal, like everything that surrounds him; everything is destined to end. In the second verse he tells us that our end is so certain that even something as grand as the starry sky is destined to expire. The two verses express a sense of hopelessness, the fact that we are here only in passing. But then in the third verse, a ray of light filters through the darkness of the first two verses: there is a longing for something more, for eternity.
In verse 1, he uses an ellipsis, or rather, an omission, which, however, is not an obstacle to understanding the verse (in this case it is “if I am enclosed among mortal things”); and assonance and consonance (c and o whose closed sounds echo the confines of existence.)
In the third verse, I believe the importance is not in the question (what is man looking for, what is the meaning of life, why do we long for God?) but in the answer (eternal life can only come through the belief that there is an afterlife and, therefore, God.) With regards to the last verse: I hear an openness in the word bramo (which is the synonym of desiderare=desire), a crevice into which light (and hope) may enter by way of the letter “A”…but maybe that’s just me.
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