Eugenio Montale


translated by Alan Tucker


Perché tardi? Nel pino lo scoiattolo
batte la coda a torcia sulla scorza.
La mezzaluna scende col suo picco
nel sole che la smorza. È giorno fatto.

A un soffio il pigro fumo trasalisce,
si difende nel punto che ti chiude.
Nulla finisce, o tutto, se tu fólgore
lasci la nube.


Why so long? In the cedar a red squirrel
beats out its tail against the bark.
The half moon sinks with its horn
washed by sunrise from the dark. It's plain day.

A puff of smoke idled by the breeze
persists enfolded around you.
Nothing is over, or all, if you, firestorm
leave the cloud.




NOTE: 'It often happens (and often wilfully) that I am equivocal… for example in the Motet of the woman who is about to emerge from a cloud:

At a puff the lazy smoke… (?)
persists in the point that enfolds you
it is clear that in the point can have two meanings: in the moment that and in the place that, both of them legitimate.'
Montale, letter to Bobi Bazlan
10 May 1939, quoted by Rebecca
J West, Eugenio Montale: Poet
on the Edge
Harvard, 1981. p49.
folgare is thunderbolt. I presume in Italian this does not instantly bring to mind Titfield or to me Georgie's parlour-maid Foljambe. thunderclap would be a good word but still not quite. Another ambiguity is the time of day of the first stanza. Is it dawn or dusk? Surely dawn, but some translators have 'The day is over' If so then the sun is quenched by the dark.



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