Uomo del mio tempo
Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968)

You are still the one with the stone and the sling,
Man of my time. You were in the cockpit,
With the malevolent wings, the meridians of death,
-I have seen you - in the chariot of fire, at the gallows,
At the wheels of torture. I have seen you: it was you,
With your exact science set on extermination,
Without love, without Christ. You have killed again,
As always, as your fathers killed,
as the animals killed that saw you for the first time.
And this blood smells as on the day
When one brother told the other brother:
"Let us go into the fields." And that echo, chill, tenacious,
Has reached down to you, within your day.
Forgot, O sons, the clouds of blood
Risen from the earth, forget your fathers:
Their tombs sink down in ashes,
Black birds, the wind, cover their heart.


Quasimodo was in Milan in August 1943 when the city suffered four aerial bombardments by hundreds of planes. It's certainly not a coincidence that one of the first images of the poem portrays man as an aviator sitting in the cockpit of a combat plane. 'Uomo del mio tempo' is permeated with an atmosphere of horror, death and cruelty. The poet exhorts the younger generation to forget their fathers - that is, to repudiate their forebears and start a new era in which war can be forgotten.


Mike Towler, April 1998