Eugenio Montale


translated by Alan Tucker


Al primo chiaro, quando
subitaneo un rumore
di ferrovia mi parla
di chiusi uomini in corsa
nel traforo del sasso
illuminato a tagli
da cieli ed acque misti;

al primo buio, quando
il bulino che tarla
la scrivanìa rafforza
il suo fervore e il passo
del guardiano s'accosta:
al chiaro e al buio, soste ancora umane
se tu a intrecciarle col tuo refe insisti.


At first light when
a sudden din of grating
rails speaks to me
of men who travel
locked inside a cliff
lit intermittently
by glimpses of sky and sea-gleam

at first darkness when
the worm tunnels the leaf
the burin scores into the level
the watchman's steps
grow near as if
at dawn and dusk you insist
you draw humanity's thread
                        stitching this seam.






64 words

the Montale is 64 words
very tightly drawn together

particularly note the first words
of each of his lines – the dies illa
not recapturable.

I consider this poem the clef
the sphinx to the sequence.

No translation of this poem makes adequate sense without careful study of the pattern of the original Italian. The rhymes parla – tarla, sasso – passo and misti – insisti are not more important than the first words of each line, di, di, il.. da, then al, il, la, and the rhyming of nel – del which I suspect is there to draw attention to this echo of the Requiem Mass, in illa die tremenda. The din of the railroad, that takes away… a straight path to hell. To me this is the key poem of the set.


I      II      III      IV      V      VI      VII      VIII      IX      X      XI

XII      XIII      XIV      XV      XVI      XVII      XVIII      XIX      XX