Rivers – Poem by Giuseppe Ungaretti


This mutilated tree gives
Me support, left in this pot-hole
It has the bitterness of a circus
Before or after the show.
I watch
The quiet passage of
Clouds over the moon.

This morning I stretched
Myself in an urn of water,
Like a relic, and rested.

The Isonzo scoured
Me like
One of its stones.

I pulled my four
limbs together,
And went, like an acrobat,
Over the water.

Crouched by my clothes
Fouled with war, I inclined
My head, like a Bedouin,
To receive the sun.

This is the Isonzo.
And it is there I
Most see myself
In the universe
A compliant

My pain is
When I do not believe
Myself in harmony.

But those hidden
Hands give as they knead me
A rare joy.

I have relived
The stages of my life.

The Serchio: from
Which have drawn, perhaps
For two thousand years
My country people, my father,
My mother.

This is the Nile
That has seen me be born,
And grow
And burn in ignorance on
Extending plains.

This is the Seine; and I mingled
In that muddiness learning each
Part of all myself.

These are my rivers confluent
In the Isonzo.

This is my nostalgia
That in each
One shines through me, now
It is night, and my life seems
A budding
Off of shades.

Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970)