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Umberto Saba – Ulisse / Ulysses

Jean-Leon Gerome, Polyphemus, 1902

Once in my younger days I sailed the length
of the Dalmation coast. Islets of rock
lilied the surface of the water, perches
for the occasional bird intent on food.
The rocks were slick and algae-draped and bright
as emeralds in the sun, but when high tide
or night concealed them, any sail with wind
would veer toward deeper water to avert
their treachery. And now I am the king
of no man’s land. The harbor-lights are lit
for others; I again turn to the sea,
still driven by an unextinguished spirit,
by this excruciating love for life.

(Transl. by Geoffrey Brock)

Nella mia giovinezza ho navigato
lungo le coste dalmate. Isolotti
a fior d’onda emergevano, ove raro
un uccello sostava intento a prede,
coperti d’alghe, scivolosi, al sole
belli come smeraldi. Quando l’alta
marea e la notte li annullava, vele
sottovento sbandavano più al largo,
per fuggirne l’insidia. Oggi il mio regno
è quella terra di nessuno. Il porto
accende ad altri i suoi lumi; me al largo
sospinge ancora il non domato spirito,
e della vita il doloroso amore.