The poets and the World War: "Valmorbia" by Eugenio Montale

The Italian poet
Eugenio Montale in 1918
Today we go back to poetry with the world renowned Italian poet Eugenio Montale (Genova 1896 - Milano 1981), Nobel prize in Literature in 1975. Montale was a soldier of the Great War in the Trentino region. As far as we know, he wrote only one poem about his experience at the front and this appears in his debut book entitled Ossi di seppia (Cuttlefish bones, 1925, Piero Gobetti Editore Torino). It's a recollection of memories happening some years after the war has ended and therefore something completely different from the poems Ungaretti wrote live and kept in his haversack. The translation we offer is a brand new one and is a team work of the editors of World War I Bridges. For a better location of the region you can have a look at this page. A curiosity and an advice for people willing to deepen their knowledge of the Italian poetry: the title of the best anthology of Italy World War I poetry today available borrowed a verse of this poem: Le notti chiare erano tutte un'alba (edited by Andrea Cortellessa, Bruno Mondadori Editore, 1998).

Valmorbia, blossoming clouds of plants

held forth on your bottom at the puffs.
World's oblivion flowered in us
doomed to the blind chance.

In the lonely lap the shots fell silent,
nothing but the gruff Leno resounded.
A rocket bloomed on its stem, faint,
letting tears flow into the air.

The bright nights were all a dawn
and brought foxes to my cave. 
Valmorbia, a name - and now in the pale
memory, land where the night never falls.

The valley entitling the poem in a photo of the war time


Valmorbia, discorrevano il tuo fondo
fioriti nuvoli di piante agli àsoli. 
Nasceva in noi, volti dal cieco caso, 
oblio del mondo.

Tacevano gli spari, nel grembo solitario 

non dava suono che il Leno roco. 
Sbocciava un razzo su lo stelo, fioco 
lacrimava nell'aría.

Le notti chiare erano tutte un'alba 

e portavano volpi alla mia grotta. 
Valmorbia, un nome - e ora nella scialba 
memoria, terra dove non annotta.