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…But when we began to sing
Our songs, senseless and good,
It seemed that everything
Stood as it once had stood.

The days were merely days.
Seven made a week.
Killing we thought was wicked.
Of dying we didn’t speak.

The months sped by so fast,
With too many to come for complaints!
Again we were only young:
Not martyrs, the shamed, or saints.

We had these thoughts and others
As long as we could sing.
But it’s all hard to explain,
Being a cloudlike thing.

3 January 1946

(Cf. Siegfried Sassoon, ‘Everyone Sang’.)

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About the translation:
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Primo Levi
Marco Sonzogni, Harry Thomas
Original language:
Series 3 No.15 - Poetry and the State

About the author

Original poet

Primo Levi

Primo Levi (1919-1987) lived most of his life in Turin. During the Nazi occupation of Italy, he joined a partisan group in the...

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Marco Sonzogni

Marco Sonzogni was educated in Pavia, Dublin, Wellington and Auckland. An academic, poet and literary translator, he lives in...

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Harry Thomas

Harry Thomas has had his work published in dozens of magazines. His books include Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy and Montale i...

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