Friulian and Italian Poetry by Pier Paolo Pasolini

From the Friulian Poesia a Casarsa (Poetry in Casarsa)


The Day of My Death

In a city, Trieste or Undine
along an avenue bordered by linden trees
in spring when the leaves
change color

I will fall dead
under a burning noonday sun
my eyes closing upon
the sky and its splendor.

Beneath the mild green of the lindens
I will sink into the
black of my death
parting from the sun and the leaves.
Beautiful young boys
will run in the light
I will now have lost
streaming from their schools
curls on their brows.

I will still be young,
in a bright shirt,
my hair tender in the rain
falling on the bitter dust.
I will still be warm
and a child running on the
soft asphalt of the avenue
will come and rest his hand
on my crystal loins.


To Rosario

Flesh weighs in the earth
light escapes from the sky
don’t lower your eyes poor boy
just because a shadow rests on your loins

Yes, laugh, sprightly boy,
feeling in your body
the earth warm and dense
and the sky fresh and clear

In its impoverishment the church
in harsh sin oppresses you
but in your bounding light
destiny in all its purity laughs.


Song of Church Bells

Evening at twilight entwines
amidst fountains
and my village takes shelter
in reticent colors.
I recall from a far distance the humming
of frogs, the moon, the sad cries
of the crickets.
Rosario’s singing slowly diminishes
across the fields while
to the sounds of church bells I die.
Stranger, you need not fear
my genial dash across the plains:
I am the spirit of love
returned to my village from faraway.


Pastoral of Narcissus

Yesterday in holiday clothing
(but it was Friday)
I wandered through the tender
meadows and sun-burnt fields.
Hands in my pockets…fourteen years old!
My body feverish with beauty!
I touched my thighs beneath the soft
linen folds of my pants.

A voice arose
from the shadows of the poplars
“Hey!” I cried,
thinking it was my companions…
But when I approached closer
there was a little blonde girl…
No, rather a young woman,
alone, in a crimson blouse
who gathered flowers in the the mist.

Hidden, I watched her…and in her place
I found that it was me:
I saw myself seated on a stump
beneath the branches of a poplar,
the eyes of my mother,
black as stable ground,
neck shining, a new jacket
and my hand resting on my loins.

From the Italian L’usignolo della Chiesa Cattolica (The Nightingale of the Catholic Church)


Little Nocturnal Poems


It has no foundation, this emptiness
brought by the new season
submitted to an unknown force
where reason, assailed,

gives relief to animal senses
awakened in new spaces.
Here we feel ourselves somewhat
necessary, seized again

so that this wing, warm, enables
us to see the vanity in any sign
which would insist on our remaining unrecognized
and to see far off a true human time.


In the obscurity
of a Saturday night
it expands without end,
a frontier inside of which

our corrupt presences
are human: in silence
another silence, and in
an echo the echo of the cosmos

dying in the street.
Unmeasured, one of my gestures
propagates itself to that point

where God is not:
and thereupon pure dread
fills my heart.


When living is at its most difficult
Is life at its most absolute?
On the evening banks of my
mute senses

the old reason
in which I recognized myself
withdraws: it is an inner
pathway beneath stifling overgrowth
where all is nature.
Exhausting labor
of an obscure subsistence,

you alone are necessary…
And you carry me softly
beyond human frontiers.


Mysterious lightness
of the dead weight of what
is now life, candor
of a blemished heart…

Whose feelings are like lace
after midnight
when a prostitute,
mute, silent, returns home

It is truly there,
the wind of inner life
which never slackens,
and the monotonous variation

of feelings: now,
happy, who knows why,
(for nothing, or even more
like a prostitute

I come back from
a hopeless night of roaming)
burning gloriously
with life: prey to forces
now living, now spent


Pier Paolo Pasolini

Born in Bologna in 1922, Pier Paolo Pasolini was one of the most versatile and sparkling of twentieth-century critical and poetic intelligences. Poet first and last, he was also a novelist, filmmaker, dramatist, a sociocultural, sociopolitical, cinematic, and literary theoretician and critic, as well as a brave and resolute political activist. His was a remarkable and unique itinerary, one cut short by his brutal murder in 1975 which has not yet been satisfactorily investigated, adjudicated, or resolved. Pasolini's early life was spent in Bologna with occasional stays in Casarsa, the town native to his mother and situated in Friulia in the northeast of Italy. He attended the University of Bologna and eventually at war's end completed a thesis on the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century poet, Giovanni Pascoli. Drafted into the army unexpectedly at the moment of the German occupation of the country at the fall of the Mussolini regime in 1943, Pasolini in an act of resistance deserted and made his way over a 100-mile trek, "fearing for my life at every moment," to Casarsa where his family had gone to live during the war and where he had self-published his first book of poems, Poesia a Casarsa, the year before. Eventually Pasolini obtained a teaching position and became active in the Friulian Popular Movement (MPL), participating in the agrarian workers strikes and demonstrations in 1948 and subsequently joining the Communist Party. His open homosexuality and an affair lead to his dismissal from his teaching position and his expulsion from the PCI. In 1949, he moved to Rome, where he worked as an assistant screenwriter for several directors including Fellini. He published further books of verse, La meglio gioventu (The Best of Youth; 1954) and The Ashes of Gramsci (1957), which brought him fame, as well as two novels depicting the lives of the sub-proletariat on the outskirts of Rome: The Ragazzi (1955) and A Violent Life (1959). In 1961, he directed his first film Accatonne. He went on to make twelve more feature films while continuing to publish poems, translations, dramatic works, essays, and criticism. Always on the left politically and always heterodox, he was an early and inveterate critic of the rise of the society of consumption and of its ever more reified and totalizing processes.

Steve Light

Steve Light, a basketball point-guard following upon Nate Archibald, Pete Maravich, and Willie Somerset--and akin as well to Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Earl Boykins--is also a philosopher and poet. He is the translator of Jean Grenier’s Islands: Lyrical Essays, and his translations of poems from the Friulian and Italian of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Italian of Sergio Solmi, Umberto Saba, Giuseppi Ungaretti, Salvatore Quasimodo, and Carlo Carabba, the French of Alain Suied and Jean-Baptiste Para, the German of Rainer Maria Rilke, and the Japanese of Yoko Mihashi, have appeared in journals and reviews in the US, UK, and Canada. His own writings have appeared in the US, UK, Jamaica, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan.

Copyright (c) Editrice Sansoni, 1954 and Editrice Longanesi, 1958. English translation copyright (c) Steve Light, 2016.