A Sunday poem: ‘Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples’

The Bay of Naples from space

The English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was in Naples from 29 November 29 1818 until 28 February 1819.  He was at a low ebb: he was ill and estranged from his wife Mary over the death earlier in the year of his daughter Clara.  His first wife, Harriet Westbrook, and Mary Shelley’s half sister, Fanny Inlay, had both committed suicide and his two children by Harriet had been taken off him by the courts.  His friends had turned against him and his poetry was neglected by the public and condemned by the critics.  And he was plagued by financial and personal problems. The beauty of the Bay of Naples could not lift his mood and the depressive tone of this poem reflects this.

‘The sun is warm, the sky is clear,
The waves are dancing fast and bright,
Blue isles and snowy mountains wear
The purple noon’s transparent might,
The breath of the moist earth is light,
Around its unexpanded buds;
Like many a voice of one delight,
The winds, the birds, the ocean floods,
The City’s voice itself, is soft like Solitude’s.

I see the Deep’s untrampled floor
With green and purple seaweeds strown;
I see the waves upon the shore,
Like light dissolved in star-showers, thrown:
I sit upon the sands alone,—
The lightning of the noontide ocean
Is flashing round me, and a tone
Arises from its measured motion,
How sweet! did any heart now share in my emotion.

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Sunday Italian Poem: Mattina ‘Morning’ (1917)

Giuseppe Ungaretti was a leading representative of the Hermeticism school of poetry, which believed that punctuation should be erased, meaning obscured, words reduced to essentials and compositions be as brief as possible.  He wrote this in the trenches of northern Italy in 1917 and it is perhaps the most famous modern Italian poem.

M’illumino
d’immenso

It is also a nightmare to translate into English.  This captures perhaps the sense of wonder and hope of the original:

Immensity fills
Me with light.

Or:

I illuminate myself
with immensity

Photo via David Stephens on Flickr.