Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, December 14, 2020

Ungaretti of the Carso: A Roads Classic

Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888–1970) is considered by some to be the greatest modern Italian poet. During the war he served with the 19th Infantry Regiment on the bleak Carso Plateau on the lower end of the Isonzo River sector. The fighting in the area was some of the grimmest of the war. Ungaretti began writing poetry there during interludes. 

Later he was attached to the Italian contingent sent to the Western Front. He was a modernist and Dadaist, and after the war aligned with Mussolini's Fascists through the fall of the dictatorship. Following the Second World War, he and his reputation went through a slow "rehabilitation". However, his political history probably denied him the highest literary honors.

Mte. San Michele and the village of San Martino del Carso were on the front line and are the subjects of two of Ungaretti's most famous poems.


Like this stone of
San Michele

as cold
as hard
as thoroughly dried

as refractory
as deprived of spirit

Like this stone
is my weeping that can't
be seen

Living discounts death

The Battlefield Where Ungaretti Fought As It Looks Today


Of these houses
bur fragments of memory

Of all who
would talk with me not
one remains

But in my heart
no one's cross is missing
My heart is
the most tormented country
of all


  1. Thank you for the post about Giuseppe Ungaretti. There were more poets sprung from the First World War than just those from Oxbridge.

  2. I was introduced to the poets of World War I at Hawaii Pacific University while taking a course entitled "Literature and War." Great course and the poets of WW-I are fantastic.