Sunday, August 17, 2008

In the Greenhouse by Eugenio Montale
translated by Charles Wright

The lemon bushes overflowed
with the patter of mole paws,
the scythe shined
in its rosary of cautious water drops.

A dot, a ladybug,
ignited above the quince berries
as the snort of a rearing pony broke through,
bored with his rub-down—then the dream took over.

Kidnapped, and weightless, I was drenched
with you, your outline
was my hidden breath, your face
merged with my face, and the dark

idea of God descended
upon the living few, amid heavenly
sounds, amid childish drums,
amid suspended globes of lightning

upon me, upon you, and over the lemons...

I was introduced to this poet, Eugenio Montale, last week
by Merisi, who posted a piece of his work on her blog.
Unfortunately, I don't speak Italian, the original language in
which he composed, so I lose some of the magic. But even
translated into English, his poetry is marvelous. I ordered a
book of his poetry last week and am looking forward to
enjoying it.

Photo borrowed from Flicker


  1. Translations do tend to muck up poetry a bit...but this was lovely.

  2. Willow, a very beautiful photo, the glass and metal frame provide a great contrast. The poem is lovely and I really like this stanza:

    "Kidnapped, and weightless, I was drenched with you, your outline
    was my hidden breath, your face
    merged with my face, and the dark"

  3. I love the poem. I can understand Italian and I was just imagining what the rhythm would be like if someone was reciting it. Italian has a beautiful cadence that can also be found in Argentinian, Uruguayan and Paraguayan Spanish (there were many Italian immigrants in those regions at the turn of the XX century). Teh iamges are evry powerful.

    Thanks for the post.

    Greetings from London.

  4. Did you buy the book in Italian or the transalted version? :-) I think it would be nice to have both. One time I was asked to translate for a patient (when I lived in New Jersey) and when he started speaking, it was in Italian. I told the physician I could speak Spanish, not Italian, the patient started speaking anyway. Since the words were similar I started speaking Spanish and emulating the patient's accent. We figured out what his complaints were (and he understood me!)but I was relieved when his wife came and spoke English with an Italian accent.

  5. Ces, I ordered "Collected Poems" by Eugenio Montale, the bilingual version, with both the Italian and the English. I took four years of high school Spanish, so maybe I'll get some bits of the Italian, anyway. ;)

  6. Okie doky poky,Love the glass frame,It went well with your poem.I have lemom trees.They smell wonderful in the fall.hugs Marie Antionette

  7. I can well imagine that in Italian it is even more beautiful, but then again, isn't everything when whispered in French or Italian? :)

  8. I forgot to mention that the translation is very good, too. Another instance in which the old Latin maxim 'traduttore, tradittore' (translator, traitor) is dealt another blow. In a few days I will be uploading a translation to a lovely poem written by one of my favourite poets, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, int he 17th century. I found the translation on the net a few years ago and I loved it because the person (a woman, actually) managed to capture the essence of the poem totally.

    Enjoy your book.

    Greetings from London.

  9. Willow, what a magical photo to set off your find of a poem. It is amazing how much information can be conveyed in very few words, both in the poem and in life. Upon a train in Spain, sharing a compartment with a Spanish lady we had recourse to our school French, hers even barer than our's, we even esablished the common thread of teaching at universities. The same thing on a night train in China, the only common tongue, a few words of Russian. With these and gestures we managed to establish some human fellow feeling. Quite exciting really. Sure you'll understand a lot more than at present you anticipate. Happy reading!

  10. My school had a beautiful greenhouse, looking out onto the moustains - and your photo brought back memories.

  11. Such a wonderful photograph. It would be so delightful to have an old greenhouse, wouldn't it?

  12. Yes, I would adore an old greenhouse. Have you seen the movie "Green Card"? I would love to have Andi McDowell's solarium apartment!

  13. Oh my, this is my first visit to life at Willow Manor and it is wonderful here. I know that I will be back for more. Love to illustrate your home - it looks marvelous and your recipes too.

  14. I love the photo of the glasshouse. I can't say I entirely understood the poem but I enjoyed the language anyway.

  15. Uh.........hmmmmmmm......well........uh.........ummmmmmm.....aaaaaa...What can I say, you are a sofisticated woman! I think I'll go back into my cave!

  16. Dearest Willow, do you play requests? I do hope this once you may. Years ago, before the fire that left my cupboard bare and in ashes, as well as everything else we had accumulated over 25 yrs, I had a Fanny Farmer cook book. The one recepe I had honed to perfection from it was Yorkshire pudding. If you happen to have the book and the time could you please note down just the proportions of the ingredients? Age really plays havock with memory. So if you could pretty please?

  17. A beautiful poem! I'd not heard of him but my mum knows him.

    Yes, I loved the apartment in Green Card too - and the faked pictures of Gerard Depardieu in the jungle!

  18. I still enjoyed it, also the art-work. My son can do Italian, maybe with bags of persuasion I could get him to recite to me!!!!!!!!

  19. Arija, I can't imagine anything more devastating than losing your life's treasures in a fire.

    I think I might even have a Fanny Farmer cookbook hidden away somewhere. Let me dig around and see what I can come up with...

  20. Oooh I like it! Thanks for introducing me to a new poet Willow. Maybe you will share more when the book arrives :-)


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)