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Alle fronde dei salici - by Salvatore Quasimodo

Alle fronde dei salici
Published in 1945 in a literary magazine, the poem was later included in the collection Giorno dopo Giorno (1947). Written during the Nazi occupation of Italy after the 1943 armistice, it is a condemnation of the raids, deportations and massacres that followed, and that led poets to block their literary production in a silent protest. The war is, in fact, a universal tragedy in front of which poets cannot sing any more and hang their harps to the branches of willows, like the ancient prophets of the Jews deported to Babylon in Psalm 136 of the Bible.
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E come potevamo noi cantare
con il piede straniero sopra il cuore,
fra i morti abbandonati nelle piazze
And how could we sing
with a foreign foot on our hearts,
among the dead abandoned in the squares
 
sull'erba dura di ghiaccio, al lamento
d'agnello dei fanciulli, all'urlo nero
della madre che andava incontro al figlio
crocifisso sul palo del telegrafo?
on the grass hard for the ice, to the lament
like lambs of children, to the black scream
of a mother going to meet her son
crucified on a telegraph pole?
 
Alle fronde dei salici, per voto,
anche le nostre cetre erano appese,
oscillavano lievi al triste vento.
From the branches of willows, as a vow,
also our harps were hung,
they were swaying light to the sad wind.