From “Last Choruses for the Promised Land”

From “Last Choruses for the Promised Land”

Ungaretti, Giuseppe

Rome, 1952-1960


The days that are passed

And the others to come

Gathered, in the present.

For years and through the centuries

Surprised at every moment

In the knowledge we are still in life,

That living ever flows, always flowing,

Unexpected gift and pain

In the continuous whirl

Of empty change.

Such in keeping with our fate

Is this journey I continue,

In the flash of an instant

Unearthing and inventing

Time from first to last,

Refugee like all the others

Who have been, who are, who are to come.


We pass through the desert with vestiges

Of some earlier image in our mind,

A living man knows nothing else

About the Promised Land.


Let the hawk snatch me up in its blue talons

And, at the zenith of the sun,

Drop me on sand

As food for crows.

I will no longer shoulder mud,

I will be purified by fire,

The pointed squawking beaks,

The reeking ripping fangs of jackals.

Then the Bedouin will bring to light,

Laying bare in sand that he pokes

Around in with his walking stick,

A pure white mound of bones.


Love is no longer that tempest

That in nocturnal blindness

Still enthralled me not long ago

Between insomnia and crazy craving,

It flickers from a beacon

Toward which sails, serene,

The aged captain.

[Translated from the Italian by Andrew Frisardi]

Copyright Hudson Review Spring 2002

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