Si sta come d'autunno sugli alberi le foglie

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by lsp, Dec 4, 2004.

  1. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    I would like to understand better what this means. I believe it may be a poem, possibly well know in Italy, so I would also like to know who wrote it, if that is the case.

    Si sta come d’autunno sugli alberi le foglie

    Thanks, Lsp
  2. walnut

    walnut Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    I LOVE this poem. Giuseppe Ungaretti, one of our best poets, wrote it while he was a (very young) soldier, in WW1. Is its italian clear for you? Ciao! :) Walnut
  3. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    Literally it means: "We're like leaves on branches in Autumn/Fall", the title of the poem - if I'm not wrong - is "Soldati" ("Soldiers")

  4. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    Thanks, everyone! I thought my boss (from Italy, and he kindly speaks to me in Italian, but this time he spoke quickly, just in passing, so I may have misunderstood him) said it was Petrarca and so I couldn't find anything. I take the meaning to be about a kind of sadness, or of the cycle of life, but poetry is not my forte. Would you say that's the meaning? Is there much more to it (I'll go look a little, too). Is Ungaretti known for any particular style or subject?

    Thanks again.
  5. walnut

    walnut Senior Member

    Italy - Italian
    It's just my opinion... this kind of short poetry (like japanese haikus) touches you particularly when you approach it as if it was a picture, something visual without words. It's about life, fall, uncertainty and things passing by; I can feel what's poetical in it when I visualize autumn, a tree, the leaves left on a branch, and me. Ciao! Walnut
  6. carlafed Senior Member

    Ungaretti (1888-1970) belongs to a poetic movement or school called 'ermetismo' or "Italian school of obscure poetry" (with Eugenio Montale and Salvatore Quasimodo, to quote only the most important).
    The meaning of this poem is yet not very obscure. The soldiers are in the front line and their lives are in great danger. So the poet compare them (and he is one of them) to the leaves in Autumn, ready and doomed to fall from the trees.
    Their lives are very precarious, to quote a word that appeared in another thread
    I hope it is clear. My English is not very good :eek:
  7. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    I have been reading all about him, I now think I feel in it tenacity and vulnerability. I had not been considering the title before. Then I saw Carlafed's post (yes, precarious!) so I feel this is the right track. So much thought and emotion provoked by so few words, and as Walnut said (rather poetically), so much imagery, too... amazing.
  8. laurika Senior Member

    Your English is nice, I d say...
    would you say it in Italian: la loro vita e precaria? or would it be better to say: le loro vita sono precarie? I mean if vita has plural and if yes, what is it?
  9. carlafed Senior Member

    You can actually say 'la loro vita è ...' or 'le loro vite sono ...'
    The plural of "vita" is indeed "vite"
    Both sentences are fine and they mean basically the same.
    But I probably would not use the word 'precaria' in this case in Italian (and possibly 'their lives are very precarious' does not sound quite right in English either).
    It is not a mistake, but it is just a question of style (and maybe personal taste as well). I would say
    "La loro situazione è molto precaria"
    "La loro vita è in pericolo" (as well as "Le loro vite sono in pericolo" - exactly the same meaning)

    I used the word 'precarious' because it came to my mind it could help to understand the idea of the poem. But it is not probably the best expression.
  10. Silvia

    Silvia Senior Member

    La caducità della vita
  11. David Senior Member

    We are as the leaves that cling to the branch in Fall ...
  12. DDT

    DDT Senior Member

    Paris, France
    Italy - Italian
    That's a very good interpretation...yet I'd dare to say that Ungaretti's style is even more scanty, according to his hermetic poetics ;)

  13. farfa New Member

    It's hard to translate.

    Feels like being leaves that stand on branches in Fall.

    Cause it's not we, not personal, it's neutral, impersonal like everyone is shaking like leaves although we don't know. Just soldiers.
    Soliders shaking in fall.
  14. _forumuser_

    _forumuser_ Senior Member

    New York City
    I see others have been allowed comments on the qualities of the poem, so I hope I will be allowed one too. I don't see anything special in this poem. The imagery is cliched at best. Falling leaves have been a symbol of frailty and impermanence in Chinese and Japanese verse for millennia. Consider, for instance, this line from a famous poem by Bo Juyi (772-846) made famous by Ezra Pound's early 20th century translation:

    The leaves fall early in autumn, in wind.

    But there are literally thousands of examples that elaborate on this theme. Ungaretti was probably very familiar with haiku and other oriental verse forms that were hugely popular in Europe before WWI. What is really remarkable about it for me is that the literary establishment was able to turn 10 words into a cultural case celebrated by so many.

    With apologies to those who love the piece, I felt a clarification was due.
  15. Aidone

    Aidone Senior Member

    U.S. English/Brooklyn
    I would like to better understand what this poem means, sounds better to me than, I would like to understand better what this poem means.

    Si sta come d’autunno sugli alberi le foglie
    One is just autumn on the trees, the leaves.

    Perché si sta ma le foglie. "Si sta" posso avere una qualità del plurale? Oppure le foglie non è il soggetto?

    Even possibly,

    It is just autumn on the trees, the leaves.

    Per le qualitià, propendo alla interpretazione di formuser, pero non mi conosce la storia d'intorno questo poema, e i poemi come le canzoni popolari, parlano dei luogi e tempi unici ed elaborano risonanze inspiegabili. (As for qualities, I lean to forumuser's take, but I don't know the history surrounding this poem and poems like popular songs speak to a unique time and place and develop ineffable resonances.)
  16. MarcoMac Senior Member

    Of course, the sentence is purposedly built a bit oddly, it would be "correct" if it was (e.g.)
    Siamo come le foglie sugli alberi in autunno

    The slight ungrammaticallity asks to think "beyond", and to start a "wondering trip".

    Si sta
    Why not "siamo" [we are] nor "stiamo" [we stay]?
    "Si sta": uncommon, impersonal construction that begs for a verb (e,g, si sta facendo buio) but there's no other verb.
    We are provided only with this uncomplete, suspended auxiliary...
    Thus, OK, it can be "we stay..." but as a suspended condition. "We stay" as a ill-condition of "we are", a sub-set of "to be", a crystallization of the existence.
    The title kicks in: "Soldiers". We soldiers stay... and stay... and stay... and stay...
    Slowly "we soldiers stay" comes to mean "we soldiers wait"... yet, we don't know what we're waiting for... we just stay.
    We are taken to the life in a WW I trench: we stay... the enemies stay... everyone stays... everything stays... the world stays.
    A whole life descripted by the means of an ungrammatical choice of "si sta" in place of "stiamo come le foglie" or "siamo come le foglie".

    Those are the first two sillables, then there're another twelve to examine... :D

    Forumser: I like your posts, I like Haiku's and I love short poetry in general... so
    Respect, bro...
    ...but here we're talking about an Absolute Giant. ;)
  17. Lello4ever

    Lello4ever Senior Member

    Italia - Italiano
    Si sta come d'autunno sugli alberi le foglie.
    Stiamo (o siamo) come le foglie (stanno) sugli alberi in autunno.
    The others explained the poetry very well.
    You can have a look here too.
  18. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    US, English
    I'm a native English speaker. Once upon a time it was considered grammatically incorrect to split an infinitive. Old habits die hard, as they say. However, your opinion is your opinion. :)

  19. furs

    furs Senior Member

    Italian - Trieste dialect
    I think that if you read this super-short poem as if it were all on one single line you kind of lose 90% of the 'pathos'.
    Try reading it aloud like this (after all it was originally three lines, not one, if I recall correctly):
    Si sta. (and then a long, long pause)
    Come d'autunno (another pause)
    sugli alberi (short pause) le foglie.
    This is how my old literature professor at the Liceo used to read it. You'll agree it sounds different....
  20. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    I corrected your posts just to help you, but please try to stay on topic..
  21. malak_azrael New Member

    Italian, Italia
    Actually, the LITERAL translation is:

    It feels like
    on trees
    the leaves.

    The grammar construction is "wrong" also in italian. It is a sort of dislocation, that emphasize the word "Autumn".
    On a "normal" construction, it would be:

    Si sta come (It feels like)
    le foglie d'autunno (autumn leaves)
    sugli alberi (on trees)
  22. ohbice

    ohbice Senior Member

    It feels like
    in autumn?

    Si sta come (We are like)
    le foglie sugli alberi (leaves on trees)
    d'autunno (in autumn)

    In my modestissima opinion :)
    (che poi alla fine in inglese la "dislocazione" c'è comunque...).
  23. malak_azrael New Member

    Italian, Italia
    The fact is the pronoun "We" is not specified. It could also be "I feel". It is generic, vague.
    That's why "It feels like" is more literal. Well, then it can be adapted in many ways, obviously.
  24. ohbice

    ohbice Senior Member

    A parte il fatto che trovo l'essere letterale un po' ridicolo già nella prosa (figuriamoci nella poesia), ma It feels like non mi convince perché mi viene un "Sembra di". Qui è un certamente e fortemente "(Noi) si sta", non un "mi parrebbe di stare..."
    Comunque il fatto che il soggetto sia sottointeso non implica che non vi sia. Ciao.
    Ah, ho questo dubbio: in autumn non potrebbe actually essere on autumn?
  25. rrose17

    rrose17 Senior Member

    Canada, English
    No, in autumn is correct, on autumn doesn't exist. ;)
  26. malak_azrael New Member

    Italian, Italia
    A literal translaton is almost always wrong, when we talk about "finished transposition". But a literal translation is needed in order to understand the basic sense and THEN extract the nuances from it.
    Ungaretti used an impersonal verb, so: yes, there's no specified subject.
  27. bobes Senior Member

    We stay, like leaves on the autumn trees.
  28. Pietruzzo

    Pietruzzo Senior Member

    Yes...maybe. Actually he could also have used the 1rd person plural alla toscana, "(Noi soldati) si sta come le foglie sugli alberi in autunno" i.e. we're all going to fall down(die)
  29. furs

    furs Senior Member

    Italian - Trieste dialect
    I beg to disagree: there is nothing 'wrong' here. Quite simply, the author used a well known figure of speech, called 'metatesi': The purpose was -- as you correctly surmised -- to put emphasis, but on the verb, IMHO, rather than on anything else.
  30. malak_azrael New Member

    Italian, Italia
    Yes, "wrong" was in quotation marks. Because, according to italian grammatical rules, it is a "wrong" construction indeed.
  31. furs

    furs Senior Member

    Italian - Trieste dialect
    Sorry if I insist, but no, it isn't wrong at all. Alas, figures of speech are no longer taught in school...
  32. malak_azrael New Member

    Italian, Italia
    A lot of figure of speech commits errors in order to obtain specific effects. They are not "error" of course. Because they have specific purposes which are considered valid. They are "wanted error". Anacholuton, outside poetry, is always considered an error, for example. And so also hyperbaton. "Di Mario sul tavolo la penna" DO reverses the CORRECT grammar construction, in italian basic rules. But yes, it is an hyperbaton, it is considered a valid use of rules breaking.
  33. london calling Senior Member

    This is a translation into English, I quote:

    Here we are
    like leaves from trees
    in autumn

    Sounds good to me.:)

    Another one:

    One is like leaves on the trees of autumn.

    That sounds nice too.

    I hold a degree in Italian: Hermetic Poetry was one of my favourite subjects.:)
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2015 at 8:38 PM

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