Week 78: Vento sulla mezzaluna, by Eugenio Montale

I find the Italian writer Eugenio Montale one of the most interesting voices of the last century, a poet who moves easily between the physical world and the world of the mind, making a gnarly, intellectual music. Here is one of his love poems, set in Edinburgh: the bridge in question is the Forth Bridge. I like how it conveys a mind struggling to retain its grip on the reality of love though separated and on alien ground. The translation that follows is my own.

Vento sulla mezzaluna   

Il grande ponte non portava a te.
T’avrei raggiunta anche navigando
nelle chiaviche, a un tuo comando. Ma
già le forze, col sole sui cristalli
delle verande, andavano stremandosi.

L’uomo che predicava sul Crescente
mi chiese «Sai dov’è Dio?». Lo sapevo
e glielo dissi. Scosse il capo. Sparve
nel turbine che prese uomini e case
e li sollevò in alto, sulla pece.

Wind on the Crescent

The great bridge did not lead to you.
I would have come to you although the way
Led me through the sewers, had you asked.
But already my powers, like the declining sun
Reflected in the windows, were ebbing away.

The man who was preaching on the Crescent
Asked me ‘Do you know where God is?’ I did
And told him. But he shook his head, disappearing
In a blast of wind that caught up men and houses
And whirled them aloft, under the pitch-dark sky.


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