“You will find them, soldier, in your/ history in the shape of streams, of animals,/ or are you, too, ash of Auschwitz,/ medal of silence? […] no to death, dead in Auschwitz,/ to never repeat, from that pit/ of ashes, death.” #SalvatoreQuasimodo #LestWeForget the horrors Man is capable of.

Ad Auschwitz

Salvatore Quasimodo

Laggiù, ad Auschwitz, lontano dalla Vistola,
amore, lungo la pianura nordica,
in un campo di morte: fredda, funebre,
la pioggia sulla ruggine dei pali
e i grovigli di ferro dei recinti:
e non albero o uccelli nell’aria grigia
o su dal nostro pensiero, ma inerzia
e dolore che la memoria lascia
al suo silenzio senza ironia o ira.

Tu non vuoi elegie, idilli: solo
ragioni della nostra sorte, qui,
tu, tenera ai contrasti della mente,
incerta a una presenza
chiara della vita. E la vita è qui,
in ogni no che pare una certezza:
qui udremo piangere l’angelo il mostro
le nostre ore future
battere l’al di là, che è qui, in eterno
e in movimento, non in un’immagine
di sogni, di possibile pietà.
E qui le metamorfosi, qui i miti.
Senza nome di simboli o d’un dio,
sono cronaca, luoghi della terra,
sono Auschwitz, amore. Come subito
si mutò in fumo d’ombra
il caro corpo d’Alfeo e d’Aretusa!

Da quell’inferno aperto da una scritta
bianca: ” Il lavoro vi renderà liberi “
uscì continuo il fumo
di migliaia di donne spinte fuori
all’alba dai canili contro il muro
del tiro a segno o soffocate urlando
misericordia all’acqua con la bocca
di scheletro sotto le doccie a gas.
Le troverai tu, soldato, nella tua
storia in forme di fiumi, d’animali,
o sei tu pure cenere d’Auschwitz,
medaglia di silenzio?
Restano lunghe trecce chiuse in urne
di vetro ancora strette da amuleti
e ombre infinite di piccole scarpe
e di sciarpe d’ebrei: sono reliquie
d’un tempo di saggezza, di sapienza
dell’uomo che si fa misura d’armi,
sono i miti, le nostre metamorfosi.

Sulle distese dove amore e pianto
marcirono e pietà, sotto la pioggia,
laggiù, batteva un no dentro di noi,
un no alla morte, morta ad Auschwitz,
per non ripetere, da quella buca
di cene
In Auschwitz

Salvatore Quasimodo

Down there, in Auschwitz, far from Vistola,
my love, along the northern plain,
in a camp of death: cold, funereal,
the rain on the rust of the posts
and the tangle of iron of the fences:
and not a tree or birds in the grey air
or beyond our thoughts, but inertia
and pain which memory leaves
to its silence without irony or ire.

You do not want elegies, idylls: only
reasons for our fate, here,
you, warm to the contrasts of the mind,
uncertain to a clear
presence of life. And life is here,
in every no that seems a certainty:
here we will hear the sobs of the angel the monster
our future hours
striking the afterlife, which is here, for ever
and in motion, not in a representation
of dreams, of possible pity.
And here the metamorphoses, here the myths.
No name of symbols or of a god,
they are accounts, places of the earth,
they are Auschwitz, my love. How quickly
turned to the smoke of shadows
the dear body of Alfeo and of Aretusa!

From that inferno opened by a white
inscription: “Work will set you free”
rose the continuous smoke
of thousands of women thrust out
at dawn from kennels against the walls
of the rifle range or suffocated begging
the water for mercy with the mouth
of a skeleton under showers of gas.
You will find them, soldier, in your
history in the shape of streams, of animals,
or are you, too, ash of Auschwitz,
medal of silence?
Remaining are long braids closed in urns
of glass still tied tightly with talismans
and infinite shadows of small shoes
and of scarves of Jews: they are relics
of a time of wisdom, of knowledge
of Man making himself the measure of guns,
they are the myths, our metamorphoses.

On the expanses where love and tears
decomposed and pity, under the rain,
down there, struck no within us,
no to death, dead in Auschwitz,
to never repeat, from that pit
of ashes, death.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2022 

The Nobel Prize winner, Salvatore Quasimodo, who was the maximum poet of the Hermetic movement, wrote only one poem on the tragedy of the Holocaust: Ad Auschwitz, published in the collection of poems Il falso e il vero (1956).

Ad Auschwitz, was written only a few years after the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps became public knowledge.

It is especially important today to remember the horrors that Man is capable of, but it is a sad memory that we must keep close to our hearts every day, as this senseless, horrific beating, which happened in Livorno yesterday, shows us. We must never, ever let our guard down.

The complete collection of poems by Salvatore Quasimodo can be found here.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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