If Only Sleep Would Come: One Night by Umberto Saba

Night and Sleep by Evelyn De Morgan, 1878

One of my favorite literary bloggers, Tom from Wuthering Expectations, did a post on Modern European Poetry with a focus on the Greek poetry contained within this wonderful volume.  If you haven’t had a chance to read Tom’s posts then please do yourself a favor and peruse his blog.  His analysis of literature is full of what the Roman poet Catullus would call facetiae (wit) and lepida (charms).

As I was reading through this collection of modern poetry, I was happy to find poems by Ingeborg Bachmann whose name I have seen many times on bloggers’ personal canons.  A few poems by the Italian author Umberto Saba also captivated me.  I thought I would share one particularly short yet moving piece (Catullus would definitely approve!)

One Night

If only sleep would come, as it has come
on other nights: already slipping through
my thoughts.

Instead now,

like an old washerwoman wringing clothes,
anguish wrings another pain from my heart.
I would cry out but cannot. As for torment—
suffered once—I suffer on in silence.

And that which I have lost, only I know

Translated by Felix Stefanile


Filed under Classics, Italian Literature, Poetry

2 responses to “If Only Sleep Would Come: One Night by Umberto Saba

  1. First, thanks, really. How kind.

    Second, isn’t it an oddly great book? I wish I knew of a contemporary equivalent. It is is a snapshot of the world as of 1966, and in a few cases – quite few – Willis Barnstone or one of his collaborators guesses “wrong,” but mostly they guess right.

    Third, Saba, isn’t he great? Not like anyone else around him, anyways. “You are like a creamy pullet” – un, thanks, I guess? Someday I hope to visit his bookstore.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do wish that more collections like this were available for the late 20th and early 21st century. What a little gem the book is!

      I got a chuckle of out Saba’s poem to his wife. I wonder what she thought of it?? I bought an entire collection of his poetry because I wanted more after I read the few in this book. I also have his one novel, Ernesto, that he didn’t finish apparently. That should be interesting to compare to his poetry.

      My comment is well-deserved! I’ve gotten so many great recommendations from you. In fact, I just bought the Collected Stories of Ivan Bunin!

      Liked by 1 person

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