Friday, January 6, 2012

Suppose it were Friday L: "ero intriso di te"

S'empì d'uno zampettìo
di talpe la limonaia ..

The lemon-house was being over-ridden by the moles' stampedes ..


  Oh resta chiusa
  e libera nell'isole
  del tuo pensiero
  e del mio,
  nella fiamma leggera
  che t'avvolge ..

  Oh stay locked 
  and free
  in the islands of your thought 
  and mine,
  in the gentle flame that 
  folds you in ..


  Rapito e leggero ero intriso
  di te, la tua forma era il mio
  respiro nascosto, il tuo viso
  nel mio si fondeva, e l'oscuro

  pensiero di Dio discendeva
  sui pochi viventi, tra suoni
  celesti e infantili tamburi
  e globi sospesi di fulmini

  su me, su te, sui limoni ...

Rapt, weightless, I was drenched with you,
my hidden breathing was your form,
your face was merging into mine,
and the dark idea of God

descended on the living few
to celestial tones
and children's drums
and globes of lightning strung above

the lemons, and me, and you ...

Eugenio Montale
Collected Poems, 1920-1954
  i    Nella serra 
  ii   Incantesimo
  iii  Nella serra
Jonathan Galassi, translation
op. cit.


  1. This is massively sensual and powerful.... "I was drenched with you,
    my hidden breathing was your form,
    your face was merging into mine "

  2. Lucien, given that I had nothing to do with it, I can concur completely. You might know that Galassi's translations of Montale, published some 11-12 years ago by a firm for which he had been, if he is not still, a leading figure, met with emphatic critical welcome and have done incalculable good for our grasp in this language of this great poet. I have cited this important work before, even spoofingly in a comment on our photographic rage for sepia, but it is a book you would like to have in your library, for revisiting a poem or two from time to time. That is how this particular entry came into being; just by turning again to this wonderful oeuvre.

    I am very happy with the swimmer's completely unstaged embodiment of the figure for whom the prayerful lines from "Incantesimo" are offered. As you've seen, this entry falls within a stream of presentations on hostility and abuse such a figure will be called upon to endure for the delight of an American political party's darkest elements, and already is enduring from the Santorum campaign in New Hampshire. (His equation before a college audience, yesterday, of equal rights to matrimony with the conduct of an orgy marks him, once again, as intellectually and temperamentally incompetent and morally irredeemable). It is proper to speak of the swimmer's thoughts and that energy which would protect him, because he is just as often exploited as a piece of candy, in the references of others. I am as heartened by Montale's phrases there as you are impressed - and I am, too - by his celebration of the sensual.

    As should be plain, to any reader of any of this blog's several hundred entries, we conceive of the swimmer as a universal figure of a gender, simply, who is endowed (as Jefferson said) with inviolable and equal claim to nourishment and development, generally speaking. That this poem happens to be written to a woman is, therefore, even more in its favour for the principle of equality. We are always discovering more about what equality does mean.

    But plainly we come to these discoveries of that with the help of our Republicans, whose extremest bogey equality happens to be, although they surely have no idea of it in those terms. Remember, Lucien, Mr Nixon made them the heirs of an epistemology of racial inequality which you and I might have thought we'd defeated in the Second World War; but to these handsome theories the Party naturally brings what it has always believed, that the rich should control government so that we/they may govern outside of government, through what is variously called, "business," "free enterprise," the "family farm," and even "small business," which presumably covers Lucy's lemonade stand. The delirium for there to be no limit against the jackal's lusts is part and parcel of the delight they feel in throwing prisoners of war against the wall and holding prayer vigils for the death of gay men. Most odious of all, probably, is the revolting proposition that this is "a guy thing."

    The swimmer then IS implicated in this entry, in a gay nature, by the resumption of the first poem, "our night." This is to underscore our sense of the inviolability he stands for, above, with the passion of gorgeous imagery attesting to our visceral attachment to his inviolability. But that attachment is independent of that sensual apotheosis, and you and I know this very well. We are going to say that again, Lucien, and still again; and one fine day, not because of this but because we believe this must happen, we will be seen as valuable irrespective of where the kisses fall.

    Thank you again for developing the blog.