Franz Kafka

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

The oldest tweet, 1917: Giuseppe Ungaretti's "Mattina", the shortest poem ever: "M'illumino d'immenso"

Giuseppe Ungaretti during World War I, in the Italian Kingdom infantry uniform.

    It's a round century since World-War-I broke out, and it was back in those old days  - precisely the 26 of January 1917 - that the greatest Great War poet and Hermetic poetry master Giuseppe Ungaretti composed what is, allegedly, the shortest poem of all times: the famous "Mattina" (Morning), a memorable four words piece of literary work. Two words are made of one letter only: a truncated personal pronoun and a truncated preposition. It's a tiny little thing of twenty characters, the first tweet that was ever written;  including the title, which is fundamental for the text comprehension, that is five words, total of twenty-eight characters, including the extra space.

It reads as follows:

Mattina (title)

M'illumino d'immenso  
It can be translated in English as: Morning/ I illuminate (myself) with immensity. 
    The poem was published soon after the war ended, appearing in the 1919 collection "Allegria." The original title, "Cielo e Mare" (Sky and Sea), also helps its textual interpretation: a dazzling, pervading morning light that illuminates the horizon, as if melting down the waters and the skies, inspiring a sense of spiritual enlightenment, wholesomeness, and universal harmony.    
     What is exactly this immensity that lights up a body's soul, so strong that breaks through even the misery of war? Perhaps the mystery of being born, and the one of passing away: coming and departing this world, and a sense of understanding of both passages that may suddenly arise. Furthermore, for a poet, it is the immensity that comes with process of artistic creation: the epiphany that repeats itself,  renewing the beauty of just being alive.

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