Umberto Saba: Ulysses (From Italian)

By Umberto Saba
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

When I was in my younger years I sailed
The coastlines of Dalmatia. Isles appeared
In bloom along the billows where sporadic
Birds hung in intent hunger over prey.
Those algae-slippery isles were glittering
Emeralds in gold sunlight. When the high
Tide and the night nullified them, sails
Listed to leeward, farther out to sea,
To flee their perfidy. Today my kingdom
Is that no man's land. The harbor heights
Blaze on for others; I to dark broad seas

Am thrust by an indomitable spirit,
By the excruciating love of life.

The Original:


Nella mia giovanezza ho navigato
lungo le coste dalmate. Isolotti
a fior d’onda emergevano, ove raro
un uccello sostava intento a prede,
coperti d’alghe, scivolosi, al sole
belli come smeraldi. Quando l’alta
marea e la notte li annullava, vele
sottovento sbandavano più al largo,
per sfuggirne l’insidia. Oggi il mio regno
è quella terra di nessuno. Il porto
accende ad altri i suoi lumi, me al largo
sospinge ancora il non domato spirito,
e della vita il doloroso amore


  1. I suggest: Today I'm THERE a king...

  2. Thank you for this.  Here's another translation (more prosaic I'm afraid).I have negotiated the Dalmation coasts
    A long time now, since I was young.  Islets
    Emerge from the edge of the surf
    Upon which scattered birds
    Stand intent upon their prey;
    They are algae-covered, slippery, 
    Beautiful in sunlight, 
    Like emeralds.

    But when the high sea and night annul them,
    The sails must turn downwind 
    Towards the deep 
    To fly from treachery.

    Today my kingdom is nobody's land.
    The harbor burns its lights for other men; 
    Again my unquenchable spirit pulls me 
    To the deep, to sad delight in life.I had a lot of trouble with the phrase: "vele sottovento sbandavano piu al largo".