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MONTALE, Eugenio

In limine

Delight, then—if the wind re-enter our conservatory

bringing back to it, and to you, the surge of our life:

here—where a dead

tangle of memories subsides,

—no garden plot—our reliquary.

And that flutter you feel is not ephemeral, no,

it is a stirring within—our eternal womb;

see—how the narrow bed of our abandoned clay

transforms itself into a crucible.

Boiling here, over its precipitous lip.

Walk on out, but slowly—you could bump

into a specter who might save you:

this is where we did compound our stories, our acts

splattered to droplets by the great play—of the future.

Wriggle then—through the single broken mesh

of the net that still entangles us—leap out, slip away!

Go. I’ve prayed—for this, for you—and that my hour

of thirst ease, and that less bitter seem the rust

and the bad blood between us.

(translated by Mary Jane White)

Xenia I

I've never understood if it was I

who was your faithful and distempered dog,

or if you were that for me.

For them you were only a myopic

insect lost in the babble

of high society. How ingenuous

of those clever people not to know

it was they who were your laughingstock,

that you could see them even in the dark,

and unmask them with your infallible flair

and your bat's radar.

(Cuttlefish Bones)
The wind which this evening alertly plays

- recalls a loud clash of metal sheets -

the instruments of the thick trees and sweeps

the coppery horizon

where streaks of light like kites

stretch high in the sky that thunders

(Journeying clouds, bright

realms of above! Of sublime El Dorados

half-shut doors!)

and the sea that scale after scale,

hurls to the ground a horn

of spiralled foams;

the wind that is born and dies

in the hour that is slowly blackening

would also play you tonight

out of tune instrument,




isn’t a sin so long as it does some good.

[…] before it can lock

onto the images, onto the words, onto the dark

remembering senses of the past, the emptiness

we once occupied which waits us again,

when it is time

to take us back, to take us in.

(Satura, Xenia II )

Ho sceso, dandoti il braccio, almeno un milione di scale

Ho sceso, dandoti il braccio, almeno un milione di scale
e ora che non ci sei è il vuoto ad ogni gradino.
Anche così è stato breve il nostro lungo viaggio.
Il mio dura tuttora, né più mi occorrono
le coincidenze, le prenotazioni,
le trappole, gli scorni di chi crede
che la realtà sia quella che si vede.
Ho sceso milioni di scale dandoti il braccio
non già perché con quattr'occhi forse si vede di più.
Con te le ho scese perché sapevo che di noi due
le sole vere pupille, sebbene tanto offuscate,
erano le tue.

I went down a million stairs, at least, arm in arm with you.

I went down a million stairs, at least, arm in arm with you.

And now that you are not here, I feel emptiness at each step.

Our long journey was brief, though.

Mine still lasts, but I don't need

any more connections, reservations,

 traps, humiliation of those who think reality

is what we are used to see.

I went down a million of stairs, at least, arm in arm with you,

and not because with four eyes we see better that with two.

With you I went downstairs because I knew, among the two of us,

the only real eyes, although very blurred,

belonged to you.

Ik daalde met jou aan mijn arm een miljoen trappen af

Ik daalde met jou aan mijn arm een miljoen trappen af
en nu je er niet bent, wacht een leegte na iedere tree.
Goed, onze lange reis heeft kort geduurd,
ik zet de mijne voort, onwennig zonder
tabellen, plaats bespreken,
valstrikken rondom en de hoon van wie
gelooft dat werkelijkheid is wat je ziet.
Miljoenen trappen ging ik af met jou aan mijn arm
en niet omdat vier ogen zoveel meer zien dan twee.
Ik liep daar met je om redenen van blindelings vertrouwen,
één paar ziende pupillen hadden wij samen,
mistig en wel. De jouwe.

Vertaling: Eva GERLACH

Spesso il male di vivere ho incontrato

Spesso il male di vivere ho incontrato

era il rivo strozzato che gorgoglia

era l'incartocciarsi della foglia

riarsa, era il cavallo stramazzato.

Bene non seppi, fuori del prodigio

che schiude la divina Indifferenza:

era la statua nella sonnolenza

del meriggio, e la nuvola, e il falco alto levato.

Again and Again I Have Seen Life’s Evil

Again and again I have seen life's evil:

it was the strangled brook, still gurgling,

it was the curling of the shriveled leaf,

it was the fallen horse.

I have known no good except the miracle

that reveals the divine Indifference:

it was the statue in the drowsy trance

of noon, the cloud, the cruising falcon.

translated by David Young


Dikwijls heb ik de levenspijn ervaren:

in de gewurgde stortbeek, in ‘t verschrompeld

ineenkrimpen van weggeschroeide blaren,

in ‘t trekpaard door vermoeidheid neergestrompeld.

‘t Geluk ervoer ik slechts als ik me kon

onttrekken in een goddelijke vlucht:

‘t was het standbeeld soezend in de middagzon,

de witte wolk, de valk hoog in de lucht

Vertaling: Frans VAN DOOREN

La casa dei doganieri

Tu non ricordi la casa dei doganieri

Sul rialzo a strapiombo sulla scogliera:

Desolata t’attende dalla sera

In cui v’entrò lo sciame dei tuoi pensieri

E vi sostò irrequieto.

Libeccio sferza da anni le vecchie mura

E il suono del tuo riso non è più lieto:

La bussola va impazzita all’avventura

E il calcolo dei dadi più non torna.

Tu non ricordi; altro tempo frastorna

La tua memoria; un filo s’addipana.

Ne tengo ancora un capo; ma s’allontana

La casa e in cima al tetto la banderuola

Affumicata gira senza pietà.

Ne tengo un capo; ma tu resti sola

Né qui respiri nell’oscurità.

Oh l’orizzonte in fuga, dove s’accende

Rara la luce della petroliera!

Il varco è qui? (Ripullula il frangente

Ancora sulla balza che scoscende …)

Tu non ricordi la casa di questa

Mia sera. Ed io non so chi va e chi resta.

The House of the Customs-Men

You do not remember the house of the customs-men

On the edge of the steep cliff overhanging the reef:

Desolate it has been waiting for you since that evening

When the swarm of your thoughts entered it,

And paused there, restless.

The south wind has battered the old walls for years

And the sound of your laughter is no longer gay:

The compass veers crazily at random

And the numbers on the dice no longer tally.

You do not remember; another time confuses

Your memory; and a thread is wound.

I still hold an end of it; but the house

recedes, and on top of the roof the weathervane,

Blackened by smoke, spins pitilessly.

I hold an end of it; but you remain alone

And do not breathe here in the darkness.

Oh the retreating horizon, where

the tanker’s light rarely flares!

Is this the way through? (The breakers seethe

As ever at the plunging cliffs …)

You do not remember the house of this

My evening. And I do not know who is going and who remains.

To Spend the Afternoon

To spend the afternoon, absorbed and pale,

beside a burning garden wall;

to hear, among the stubble and the thorns,

the blackbirds cackling and the rustling snakes.

On the cracked earth or in the vetch

to spy on columns of red ants

now crossing, now dispersing,

atop their miniature heaps.

To ponder, peering through the leaves,

the heaving of the scaly sea

while the cicadas' wavering screech

goes up from balding peaks.

And walking out into the sunlight's glare

to feel with melancholy wonder

how all of life and its travail

is in this following a wall

topped with the shards of broken bottles.

                                                                 translated by David Young

Glory of Expanded Noon

Glory of expanded noon

when the trees give up no shade,

and more and more the look of things

is turning bronze, from excess light.

Above, the sun—and a dry shore;

so my day is not yet done:

the finest hour is over the low wall,

closed off by a pale setting sun.

Drought all around: kingfisher hovers

over something life has left.

The good rain is beyond the barrenness,

but there's greater joy in waiting.

                                                                  translated by Jonathan Galassi

The Lemon Trees

Hear me a moment. Laureate poets

seem to wander among plants

no one knows: boxwood, acanthus,

where nothing is alive to touch.

I prefer small streets that falter

into grassy ditches where a boy,

searching in the sinking puddles,

might capture a struggling eel.

The little path that winds down

along the slope plunges through cane-tufts

and opens suddenly into the orchard

among the moss-green trunks

of the lemon trees.

Perhaps it is better

if the jubilee of small birds

dies down, swallowed in the sky,

yet more real to one who listens,

the murmur of tender leaves

in a breathless, unmoving air.

The senses are graced with an odor

filled with the earth.

It is like rain in a troubled breast,

sweet as an air that arrives

too suddenly and vanishes.

A miracle is hushed; all passions

are swept aside. Even the poor

know that richness,

the fragrance of the lemon trees.

You realize that in silences

things yield and almost betray

their ultimate secrets.

At times, one half expects

to discover an error in Nature,

the still point of reality,

the missing link that will not hold,

the thread we cannot untangle

in order to get at the truth.

You look around. Your mind seeks,

makes harmonies, falls apart

in the perfume, expands

when the day wearies away.

There are silences in which one watches

in every fading human shadow

something divine let go.

The illusion wanes, and in time we return

to our noisy cities where the blue

appears only in fragments

high up among the towering shapes.

Then rain leaching the earth.

Tedious, winter burdens the roofs,

and light is a miser, the soul bitter.

Yet, one day through an open gate,

among the green luxuriance of a yard,

the yellow lemons fire

and the heart melts,

and golden songs pour

into the breast

from the raised cornets