Eugenio Montale



After C. Debussy

Refrain, rebounding,
trapped in the closeness of summer’s glass doors.

Acrid tangle of suffocated notes,
laughter that will not burst
but pricks its way between these vacuous hours:
here play three remnants of a bacchanal
dressed in rags of newsprint—
instruments we have never seen before,
like strange funnels
that inflate, and turning, collapse.

Quiet music
that springs up by the wayside,
that rises with difficulty and lapses,
taking on these colors
now scarlet, now linen,
moistening these eyes, so the world
seems to be, seen through these half-closed lids,
swimming in platinum.

All the stuffing of the body is released—softly—
and reappears,
stifled and distant: it consumes itself.
Not so much heard, as breathed.
                On fire,
you, too, trapped between the panes of summer,
O, bewildered heart! And imprudent enough
to try notes beyond your range—upon your flute.
— Translated from the Italian by Mary Jane White


EUGENIO MONTALE (1896 — 1981) was a Nobel-Prize-winning Italian poet, editor, translator, and legend.


About the Translator:

MARY JANE WHITE is an American poet and translator.


Read more by Mary Jane White:

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