Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eugenio Montale

I don’t know a great deal about Montale. He was a favorite of my undergraduate advisor, who made us all rush out to buy his complete works (as translated by) Jonathan Galassi in Hardcover. At the time, this was quite an investment, but it is a beautiful book and one that has proven a pleasure over the years.

In this translation – and perhaps this is inherent to translation – the poetry possess greater consistency of tone and emotional pitch than I suspect Montale actually accomplished. This can induce a certain passive reading experience. Last time I was flipping through the poems, I realized after a few minutes that I was hardly reading – rather, I had entered something like a trance state in which snippets of metaphor were languidly floating through my mind while the bulk of my conscious thought was devoted toward running through my day’s to-do list and assuring I had checked all the boxes.

That was a rather convoluted way of confessing that I may not be the closest reader of Montale’s work, but it’s lovely all the same. Below the jump is a rueful and charming love poem.

I think back on your smile, and for me it’s a clear pool
found by chance among the rocks of a riverbed,
little mirror where the ivy can watch her corymbs,
embraced by a quiet white sky overhead.

This I remember; I can’t say, distant one,
whether your look gives voice to a simple spirit,
or if you’re one of those wanderers the world’s evil harms
who carry their suffering with them like a charm.

But I can say this: that your contemplated image
drowns extravagant fears in a wave of calm,
and that your look finds its way into my gray memory
sharp like the crest of a young palm.

Eugenio Montale on Wikipedia

Eugenio Montale on

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