08 January 2010

The human whirl

The Mister gave me a really nice edition of the works of Umberto Saba, poet of Trieste, whose life spanned both World Wars. He fought as a soldier in the first war and was forced into hiding during the second. The poems are beautiful in their simplicity and autobiographical matter-of-factness.

We returned the first copy to the store because the book was missing pages, and this morning I got the replacement in the mail--it, too, is missing the same pages. So sadly I will have to choose another book (well, to be honest, that's not so sad a prospect). Before I have to relinquish my gift, though, I've been skimming through as much of the book as possible, and I thought I'd share a poem (written during World War I).

The Egoist

You wonder at me and at the thing
so firmly locked in my heart
that I keep hidden from others' eyes;
because the human whirl may be peace to me,
because great gentleness holds fast in me;

because I seek the calm of meditation
even as bodies and minds are consumed by war,
I seem to you a really wicked man.
But wicked I am not, nor am I good.
You should know, then, that I am a poet.

Things tempt him, but not much,
that men make on the face of the earth
either with blood or in play.
He digs deep, deep is his treasure,
at the heart of the Earth, the golden heart.

Umberto Saba, tr. George Hochfield and Leonard Nathan

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