Eugenio Montale was born in Genoa in 1896 and died in 1981. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975. (November 2004)

After a Flight

There were birches, stands of them, to hide the hospital where someone suffering from too much love of life was bored hanging between everything and nothing. A cricket chanted, perfectly in key with the therapeutic plan, and the cuckoo you’d already heard more …

Little Testament

This, which flickers at night in the skullcap of my thought, mother-of-pearl trace of a snail or mica of crushed glass, isn’t church or workshop light fed by red cleric or black. All I can leave you is this rainbow in evidence …

Wind and Flags

The gust that lifted the bitter scent of the sea to the valley’s twists and turns and struck you, ruffling your hair, brief tangle on the pale sky; the squall that glued your dress to you and shaped you swiftly in its image, …

The Lemon Trees

Listen: the laurelled poets stroll only among shrubs with uncommon names: ligustrum, acanthus, box. What I like are streets that end in grassy ditches where boys scoop up a few famished eels from drying puddles: paths that struggle along the gulleys then dip …

A Poem by Eugenio Montale

Your hand was trying the keyboard, your eyes were following the impossible signs on the sheet: and every chord was broken, like a voice in grief. I noticed everything around turn tender, seeing you helpless, blocked, unsure in the language that was most …

Two Poems by Eugenio Montale

to C. I have such faith in you that it will last (this is the foolishness I told you once) until a flash from beyond destroys the immense waste heap in which we live. We’ll find ourselves then in I don’t know what …

Three Poems by Eugenio Montale

These translations of three poems by Montale were found among Robert Lowell’s papers in the Houghton Library at Harvard. Like all Lowell’s versions of other poets, they are “free”: “Bellosquardo,” for example, is only the first half of Montale’s “Tempi di Bellosquardo.” They were probably written in the mid-Sixties. I …

The Second Life of Art

The so-called divorce between contemporary art and the public is not a recent development. Even fifty or a hundred years ago—and one could go back much further—there was an art for the few, for initiates. Leopardi and Baudelaire failed to win enthusiastic recognition in their lifetimes, and Manet had to …

The Prisoner’s Dream

Here, but for a few signs, you can’t tell dawns from nights. Zigzagging formations flying over the watchtowers on days of fighting, my only wings, a thread of arctic air, the head-guard’s eye at the peephole, the crack of broken nuts, an oily …

Voice That Came with the Coots

Since, if I look back, the road already traveled is longer than this goat-track taking me now where we’ll dissolve like wax, and the rushes in flower don’t console the heart as do the young shoots, the graveyard’s blood, here you are, Father, free of …

After Palio

In a yellowing snapshot from forty years past fished out of the bottom of a drawer your face severe in its softness your servant at your side; and behind the two of us Sbarbaro, lichenologist and poet, and Lady Elena Vivante: there gathered together …

Three Poems by Eugenio Montale

A LETTER The old cavalry colonel used to offer you negroni, bacardi and the red label röderer brut. He told you his name, but added it was superfluous to remember it, and he didn’t even bother to ask yours, still less mine. The habitués …

More Xenia Poems

We’d long missed the shoehorn, the little rusty tin horn that was always with us. It seemed shameful to be carrying Such an awful object into gilt and stucco hotels. It must have been at the Danieli I forgot to pack it in the suitcase …

Xenia (1964–1966)

To My Wife Dear little insect whom for some reason they called fly[^1] this evening almost at dark while I was reading the Deuteroisaiah you reappeared beside me, but without your glasses you could not see me nor could I without their …

Poem

LA BUFERA from La Bufera e Altro “Les princes n’ont point d’yeux pour voir ces grands merveilles Leurs mains ne servent plus qu’à nous persecuter….” AGRIPPA D’AUBIGNE: “A Dieu” La bufera che sgronda sulle foglie dure della magnolia i lunghi tuoni marzolini e la grandine, …