Poetry in other languages such as Italian can be intimidating. Where do you even start? If you want to dip your toes into Italian poetry and sample the works of great Italian poets, look no further. Here in this article, we’ve listed down six short Italian poems written by influential Italian poets. We’ve even included their English translations!
These Italian poems are a perfect start to enjoying Italian poetry. So without further ado, let’s see the poems.
The first poem on this list is by Ugo Foscolo, or originally, Niccolò Foscolo whose works are ranked among the Italian literary greats.
Alla Sera (To Evening )
by Ugo Foscolo (Translated by Nick Benson)
Forse perché della fatal quiete
tu sei l’immago, a me si cara vieni,
o Sera! E quando ti corteggian liete
le nubi estive e i zeffiri sereni,
Perhaps because you are the image of that fatal quiet
so dear to me, you have come,
O Evening! And when happy summer clouds
and the gentle west wind are your escort,
e quando dal nevoso aere inquiete
tenebre e lunghe all’universo meni,
sempre scendi invocata, e le secrete
vie del mio cor soavemente tieni.
and when from snowy restless heights
you send shadows and darkness into the world,
you descend summoned always, and gently hold
the secret ways of my heart.
Vagar mi fai co’ miei pensier su l’orme
che vanno al nulla eterno; e intanto fugge
questo reo tempo, e van con lui le torme
You make my thoughts wander forms
that vanish into eternal nothing; meanwhile
this cursed time flees, and with it, the throng
delle cure onde meco egli si strugge;
e mentre guardo la tua pace, dorme
quello spirto guerrier ch’entro mi rugge.
of cares with which it me destroys;
and while I gaze on your peace, that warlike spirit
sleeps, that yet within me roars.
Listen to the poem here.
Another famous Italian writer, Giovanni Pascoli was considered the greatest poet in the beginning of the twentieth century. The poem featured here is taken from his first literary work "Myricae”, a volume of short poetry inspired by nature and his own inner turmoil.
Il lampo (The Lightning)
by Giovanni Pascoli
E cielo e terra si mostrò qual era:
la terra ansante, livida, in sussulto;
il cielo ingombro, tragico, disfatto:
bianca bianca nel tacito tumulto
una casa apparì sparì d’un tratto;
come un occhio, che, largo, esterrefatto,
s’aprì si chiuse, nella notte nera.
And sky and earth showed what they were like:
the earth panting, livid, in a jolt;
the sky burdened, tragic, exhausted:
white white in the silent tumult
a house appeared disappeared in the blink of an eye;
like an eyeball, that, enlarged, horrified,
opened and closed itself, in the pitch-black night.
If you want to listen to an interpretation of Il Lampo, check out this video.
Another important name not just in Italian literature, Giacomo Leopardi was considered to be among the best writers of the 19th century. His genius shines through in his poetry, as do his hopes and frustrations. His poems are often admired for its musicality and intensity. Here’s one example.
L'Infinito (The Infinite )
by Giacomo Leopardi (Translated by Henry Reed )
Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle,
E questa siepe, che da tanta parte
Dell’ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
Ma sedendo e rimirando, interminati
Spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani
Silenzi, e profondissima quieteIo nel pensier mi fingo, ove per poco
Il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
Odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
Infinito silenzio a questa voce
Vo comparando: e mi sovvien l’eterno,
E le morte stagioni, e la presente
E viva, e il suon di lei. Così tra questa
Immensità s’annega il pensier mio:
E il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare.
Always to me beloved was this lonely hillside
And the hedgerow creeping over and always hiding
The distances, the horizon's furthest reaches.
But as I sit and gaze, there is an endless
Space still beyond, there is a more than mortal
Silence spread out to the last depth of peace,
Which in my thought I shape until my heart
Scarcely can hide a fear. And as the wind
Comes through the copses sighing to my ears,
The infinite silence and the passing voice
I must compare: remembering the seasons,
Quiet in dead eternity, and the present,
Living and sounding still. And into this
Immensity my thought sinks ever drowning,
And it is sweet to shipwreck in such a sea.
Listen to the poem here.
The next poem on our list is by modernist Italian poet, essayist, and journalist Giuseppe Ungaretti who debuted his career in poetry while he was fighting in the trenches during World War 1. Here is his very short poem, Soldati.
by Giuseppe Ungaretti (Translated by Matilda Colarossi)
Si sta come
We are as
You can listen to a reading of this poem below.
Gabriele D’Annunzio was not only an Italian poet (and a playwright and journalist), he was also a soldier and later on a political leader.
Though he lived a life that was filled with scandals and some controversy, he remained one of the most striking personalities in Italy during his time and his poems continue to become among the modern masterpieces of Italian poetry.
Here is his romantic poem called Rimani.
by Gabriele D’Annunzio
Rimani! Riposati accanto a me.
Non te ne andare.
Io ti veglierò. Io ti proteggerò.
Ti pentirai di tutto fuorchè d’essere venuto a me, liberamente, fieramente.
Ti amo. Non ho nessun pensiero che non sia tuo;
non ho nel sangue nessun desiderio che non sia per te.
Lo sai. Non vedo nella mia vita altro compagno, non vedo altra gioia.
Riposati. Non temere di nulla.
Dormi stanotte sul mio cuore…
Stay! Rest beside me.
Do not go.
I will watch you. I will protect you.
You'll regret anything but coming to me, freely, proudly.
I love you. I do not have any thought that is not yours;
I have no desire in the blood that is not for you.
You know. I do not see in my life another companion, I see no other joy
Rest. Do not be afraid of anything.
Sleep tonight on my heart…
You can listen to this poem here:
Our final poem for this article is by no less than the official National Poet of Modern Italy. Giosuè Carducci won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1906 and he is considered one of the most influential literary figures in his time.
This poem, San Martino, is from his poetry collection called Rime Nuove (New Lyrics) published in 1887. It contains some of his greatest works.
San Martino (Saint Martin’s Day)
by Giosuè Carducci
La nebbia agli irti colli
e sotto il maestrale
urla e biancheggia il mar;
The fog to the steep hills
amid the rain ascends,
and under the mistral
the sea screams and whitens:
ma per le vie del borgo
dal ribollir de’ tini
va l’aspro odor dei vini
l’anime a rallegrar.
but through the alleys of the village
from the bubbling vats
goes the sour smell of wine
the souls to rejoice.
Gira su’ ceppi accesi
lo spiedo scoppiettando:
sta il cacciator fischiando
su l’uscio a rimirar
Turns on burning logs
the spit, sputtering;
stands the hunter whistling
on the door to gaze
tra le rossastre nubi
stormi d’uccelli neri,
nel vespero migrar.
among the reddish clouds
flocks of blackbirds
as exiled thoughts,
in the twilight migrating.
Listen to the poem San Martin in this video.
There you have it, six short Italian poems. We hope you enjoyed your foray into Italian poetry. Which one on this list do you like best? Or do you have a favorite Italian poem that we failed to mention? Do share it with us in the comments!