Umberto Saba (Trieste, 1883-1957) was one of the major Italian poets of the 20th century. In the poem “Ulysses”, published in the collection Mediterranee of 1946, he is «the questing seeker, derived from the heroic figure in the twenty-sixth canto of Dantes Inferno, committed to a lifelong pursuit of self-knowledge»[1].

Ulisse

Nella mia giovinezza 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 fuggirne 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.

As far as we know, there are two different English translations of Saba’s poem “Ulysses”.  The first one was published by George Hochfield and Leonard Nathan in 2008:[2]

In my youth I sailed
th
e Dalmatian coast. Tiny islands
rose f
rom the surface of the waves, covered
with alga
e, slippery, beautiful as emeralds in the sun,
w
here an occasional bird paused searching for prey.
W
hen the high tide and night submerged them,
sails under wind dispersed offshore
to escap
e the peril. Today my kingdom
is tha
t no mans land. The port
lights its lamp
s for others; still driving me on
to the op
en sea, my unbroken spirit
and the aching love of life.

The second one was published online by A.Z. Foreman, a young interpreter and translator who created a very interesting and peculiar website in 2009, called poemsintranslation.blogspot.com:

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 this grand 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
.

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Ulysses – Umberto Saba’s poem with the music of Vito Arena

Ritroviamo la poesia di Umberto Saba in una composizione musicale per coro misto a quattro voci e pianoforte. Ne è autore è il M° Vito Arena (Misterbianco, Catania, 1944), pianista, compositore e direttore di coro. La composizione è stata eseguita dalla Corale “Salvino Laurella” di Piazza Armerina (Enna), diretta dal M° Walter Mannella e accompagnata al pianoforte dal M° Gianluca Furnari. Registrazione, dal concerto del 6 novembre 2016 a Misterbianco, Auditorium Nelson Mandela.
To listen to this composition click here below:

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[1] George Hochfield, Songbook: The Selected Poems of Umberto Saba, translated by George Hochfield and Leonard Nathan, Yale University Press, New Haven & London 2008, p. 561.

[2] Ibidem, p. 493.