Eugenio Montale (Trans. Anne Schuchman)
Listen to me, the poet laureates
move only among fauna
with obscure-sounding names: boxwoods, privet, or acanthus.
For my part, I love the roads that end in grassy
ditches where in half-dry puddles
boys grab at
a few haggard eels:
the paths that follow along the shoreline,
then move down between the tufts of reeds
and into the gardens, among the lemon trees.
Better still, if the riotous songs of the birds
are silenced, swallowed up by the blue:
you can hear more clearly the whisper
of friendly branches in the air that just barely moves,
and the intensity of this scent
that cannot be separated from the earth
and a restless sweetness rains in the heart.
Here the war of conflicted passions
by some miracle falls silent,
here even the poor, we have our share of riches--
and it is the smell of the lemon trees.
See, in these silences where things
abandon themselves and seem close
to revealing their final secret,
we sometimes expect
to discover a defect of Nature,
the dead point of the world, the link that does not hold,
the thread that, unravelled, might finally lead us
to the center of a truth.
The gaze rummages around,
the mind inquires, brings together, breaks apart
in the perfume that spreads out
when the day languishes most.
These are the silences in which you see
in every human shadow that moves away
some disturbed Divinity.
But the illusion is fleeting and time brings us back
to the noisy cities where the blue shows itself
only in pieces, up above, between the rooftops.
The rain wearies the earth;
the tedium of winter grows heavy on the houses,
the light becomes stingy - the soul bitter.
Then one day, through a door left ajar,
among the trees in a courtyard
the yellows of the lemon trees are revealed;
and the chill of the heart melts away,
and in our chest they roar
the golden trumpets of sunshine.