Giuseppe Ungaretti’s poem ‘Mattina’ (‘Morning’) may be the shortest great poem of the last century:
As Alistair Reid says in his anthology Italian Landscape Poems, this is ‘a landscape poem with no landscape in it, no history, and no person but the narrator’. Ungaretti began his career as
Alistair Reid tried out several English versions of the poem in an attempt to capture its many possible meanings, but perhaps it hardly needs to be translated. Patrick Creagh made no attempt in the Penguin Modern Poets edition of Ungaretti’s verse (1971), saying that ‘Mattina’ is untranslatable. Nor does it feature among the more recent Carcanet Selected Poems translated by Andrew Frisadi, although Frisadi does have a stab at it in the introduction.