Franz Kafka

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Città vecchia, Old Town, by Umberto Saba, English Translation

A meditative walk back home through the old city's port of Trieste inspires this famous poem, sparking a reflection upon the existence of a multitude of men and women - and each own - and the closeness between all sentient beings facing a common struggle, life and destiny.

Old Town by Umberto Saba

Often, to go back to my house
I take an obscure alley in the old town.
Yellowy in some puddle is reflected 
a lamp, and crowded is the street. 

Here amongst the people that come and go
from the inn back home or to the brothel, 
where are goods and men the debris
of a great sea port, 
I discover, passing by, the infinite 
in humility. 

Here prostitute and seaman, the old man 
swearing, the female quarreling, 
the soldier who sits at the shop 
of the fried-food lad, 
the tumultuous young girl crazy
with love,
are all creatures of life
and of sufferance;
He stirs up within them, same as in me, our Lord.

Here, in the company of the humble I feel
my thought growing
purer where filthier is the way.

Translation by LiteraryJoint
Available as e-book on Amazon Kindle, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch NOOK Book and on Lulu. 

Original text in Italian:

Città vecchia, di Umberto Saba

(da Trieste e una donna, 1910-12)
Spesso, per ritornare alla mia casa
prendo un'oscura via di città vecchia.
Giallo in qualche pozzanghera si specchia
qualche fanale, e affollata è la strada.

Qui tra la gente che viene che va
dall'osteria alla casa o al lupanare,
dove son merci ed uomini il detrito
di un gran porto di mare,
io ritrovo, passando, l'infinito

Qui prostituta e marinaio, il vecchio
che bestemmia, la femmina che bega,
il dragone che siede alla bottega
del friggitore,
la tumultuante giovane impazzita
sono tutte creature della vita
e del dolore;
s'agita in esse, come in me, il Signore.

Qui degli umili sento in compagnia
il mio pensiero farsi
più puro dove più turpe è la via.


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