of Umberto Saba
Saba was born in via Pondares in Trieste on 9th March 1883, the
son of Felicita Rachele Coen and Ugo Edoardo Poli. Saba's father
left his Jewish wife before the birth; Saba was only to meet his
father in adulthood, refusing to take his surname ("Saba"
is a tribute to the Hebrew race; in Hebrew it means "bread").
After abandoning his studies, he worked as a trainee in a
private firm and as a cabin-boy on a merchant ship: he was a
soldier during the first world war, but was never called to the
His poetry debut came with the private edition called "Il
mio primo libro di poesia" (My first book of poetry)(1903),
but his first genuine publication dates back to 1911 with
"Poesie" (Poems), with an introduction by Silvio Benco.
1912 saw the publication of both "Coi miei occhi" (With
my eyes) and the essay "Quello che resta da fare ai
poeti" (What remains for poets to do), released
posthumously in 1959.
At the end of the war he became the owner of an antique bookshop,
which proved profitable over the years, allowing him to earn a
living: in 1921 he published the celebrated
"Canzoniere" (Songbook), a collection of his poetry
from a twenty year period, followed by "Preludio e
canzonette" (prelude and songs) (1923),
"Autobiografia" (Autobiography) and "I
prigionieri" (The prisoners) (1924), "Figure e
canti" (Figures and songs) (1926), "Preludio e
fughe" (Prelude and flight)(1928).
Meanwhile his always-fragile mental health was worsening, so
much so as to urge him to undergo intensive analysis from 1929
onwards: in addition, the promulgation of racist laws forced him
to seek refuge first in Paris, then in Florence, where he
enjoyed the protection of Montale and other anti-fascist
Meanwhile the collections of lyric poems "Parole" (Words)(1934),
"Ultime cose" (Last things) (1944) and the second
edition of "Canzoniere" (Songbook)(1948) were
published, bringing him virtually uncontrasted critical acclaim.
Despite this, his bouts of depression showed no signs letting
up, but forced him to seek refuge in almost complete isolation.
He booked into a Rome clinic in 1953, and upon the death of his
wife Lina (in 1956) he moved to Gorizia ; there he died the