Giuseppe Ungaretti

Christmas, as a holiday, has been and continues to be a sort of inspirational muse for poets, singers, directors, and authors of various texts. Moving through poetic circles, I’ve noticed that many poems about Christmas have been written, some more famous than others. In verses, Gozzano, Quasimodo, Ungaretti, and many others have expressed their thoughts on this religious festival. I want to share with you, dear readers, Giuseppe Ungaretti’s poem “Natale,” which, over time, evokes the pain of all those who, in this troubled period marked by wars on multiple fronts, would like to prepare for a life of peace and serenity. Yet, they are hindered by a destiny that has decided otherwise, a fate woven by human hands and diabolical minds nourished by control, money, and the greed for power.

Natale **Christmas by Giuseppe Ungaretti**

“Non ho voglia
di tuffarmi
in un gomitolo
di strade
Ho tanta
sulle spalle
Lasciatemi così
come una
in un
e dimenticataQui
non si sente
che il caldo buonoSto
con le quattro
di fumo
del focolare.”
“I don’t feel like
into a tangle
of streets
I have so much
on my shoulders
Leave me like this
like a
in a
and forgottenHere
you don’t hear
but the good warmthI’m
with the four
of smoke
from the fireplace.”

Ungaretti wrote this poem during his Christmas holiday break, while staying in Naples. The lyric is dated December 26, 1916. In these verses, it was challenging, for me, to separate the soldier returning from the front with his load of conflicting emotions, the soul torn by the atrocities his eyes have witnessed, from the man who seeks relief by entrusting words with a sense of reassuring comfort.

As a versatile poet, Ungaretti crafted verses adorned with rhetorical figures, skillfully evading punctuation, as if wanting to give free rein to his pain inone breath, without interruption. The poet doesn’t feel like immersing himself in crowded streets; he feels tired and wants to cradle himself in solitude. He wants to be “a thing placed in a corner and forgotten”; presumably, in this line, Ungaretti evokes a brother at war, fallen under enemy fire. A clear opposition emerges between Christmas, considered the day of serene joy and conviviality, and the physical and spiritual weariness that grips the author. A “here,” reminiscent of goodness, contrasted with a “there,” meaning the trench; finally, the “warmth” opposed to the “cold” of death. In the poem, the rhetorical figure of enjambment breaks the lines, while alliterations lend musicality to the text.

One cannot deny Ungaretti a fundamental literary role. He paved new ways for Italian lyricism, restoring to words an unusual evocative power, a semantic substance beyond the known poetic canons. All this because the poet became an interpreter of the contemporary dramas and existential anxieties of his time, where a man, devoid of certainties, wanders in search of an Absolute Truth, if it exists.

I wish readers Happy Holidays, with the hope that it may be a Christmas of serenity and peace for all peoples of the earth.

For further reading:

Giuseppe Ungaretti, “Allegria,” published by Mondadori

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