Late Montale

Poems Written in Eugenio Montale's Final Years, Selected and Translated by George BradleyEugenio MontalePublication: April 14th, 2022

£17.99 / £39.99

Translator's Preface by George Bradley

Late Montale presents a generous selection of the intimate, elusive, and trenchant poems that the Nobel laureate Eugenio Montale wrote in the last several years of his life. Translated by the prize-winning poet George Bradley (Yale Younger Poet, 1985), the work chosen for this volume includes fifty-six poems that were previously unavailable in English and now form an important addition to the Montale œuvre. Bradley’s idiomatic, accurate, and graceful versions bring Montale’s Italian to the anglophone audience with a new immediacy, and the extensive notes he provides offer valuable information, much of it newly uncovered, regarding the many people and places referenced. Both readers coming to Montale for the first time and those familiar with his earlier work will find these translations compelling, and anyone interested in world-class literature will find Late Montale a fascinating volume.

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Late Montale

With Late Montale  the distinguished poet George Bradley has given us a Montale in English most of us hardly knew. In selecting and translating scores of poems from the four collections published in the last decade of Montale’s life, along with dozens of previously untranslated poems drawn from notebooks the Nobel laureate entrusted to his housekeeper, Bradley urges us to focus on the work the poet’s old age. These translations, printed with the meticulously edited Italian texts en face, are marvels of lucidity and subtle music in which precision is suffused with a rare tenderness of attention. The volume includes Bradley’s succinct but copious notes clarifying many of the allusions in the poems. And there are many masterpieces here, riches of meditation, at times caustic and satirical, at others grave and quizzical. For all its unavoidable melancholy, Montale’s late work pulses with life, and Bradley captures the underlying exuberance to perfection. Montale’s late poems are ‘direct and conversational, the work of an older man soaked in reflection and second thoughts,’ as Bradley notes in his elegant Foreword; but they are no less moving and indeed no less thrilling for that. — Eric Ormsby

Montale once quipped that the early poems ‘were written in a tailcoat’ and the late poems ‘in pajamas,’ an image that goes a long way toward conveying the casual, relaxed mood of Late Montale. George Bradley’s versions feel as comfortable in their English as the originals do in their Italian, and his generous selection and discerning introduction and notes offer Anglophone readers their best chance yet to discover the many quiet pleasures of late Montale. — Geoffrey Brock

With his gentle wit and rigorous precision, Mr. Bradley is the ideal medium for these poignant poems of Montale’s late maturity. He has done the anglophone reader a great service. — Daniel Mark Epstein

George Bradley has found the perfect, acerbic tone for these late poems and drafts of Montale, some never seen before in English. In old age, Montale crafted an art of radical disillusionment, a world of smoke and ashes in which ‘the children of those children will have / nothing left to learn / nothing to lose.’ Bradley has importantly enlarged our understanding of this important and incorruptible poet. — Rosanna Warren

 

Two poems, first in Montale’s Italian, then in Bradley’s English translation, from Late Montale

 

L’Arno a Rovezzano

I grandi fiumi sono l’immagine del tempo,
crudele e impersonale. Osservati da un ponte
dichiarano la loro nullità inesorabile.
Solo l’ansa esitante di qualche paludoso
giuncheto, qualche specchio
che riluca tra folte sterpaglie e borraccina
può svelare che l’acqua come noi pensa se stessa
prima di farsi vortice e rapina.
Tanto tempo è passato, nulla è scorso
da quando ti cantavo al telefono ‘tu
che fai l’addormentata’ col triplice cachinno.
La tua casa era un lampo visto dal treno. Curva
sull’Arno come l’albero di Giuda
che voleva proteggerla. Forse c’è ancora o
non è che una rovina. Tutta piena,
mi dicevi, di insetti, inabitabile.
Altro comfort fa per noi ora, altro
sconforto.

 

The Arno at Rovezzano

Great rivers are the image of time,
cruel and impersonal. Seen from a bridge
they declare their nothingness to be inexorable.
The mere lazy bend beside some swampy
reed-patch, a glassy reflection gleaming
out of scrub growth and moss, can reveal
the way water, like us, thinks about itself
before moving on to whirlpools and destruction.
So much time has gone by and nothing seems past
since I was calling you up to sing that aria, “tu che fai
l’addormentata,”
complete with its cackles of laughter.
Glimpsed from a train, your house was a flash of light.
It leaned over the river, like the Judas-tree
that attempted to protect it. Maybe it still stands,
or maybe it’s nothing but a ruin. Full of flies,
you told me, quite uninhabitable.
It gives us other comfort now, other
discomfort.

 

Alunna delle Muse

Riempi il tuo bauletto
dei tuoi carmina sacra o profana
bimba mia
e gettalo in una corrente
che lo porti lontano e poi lo lasci
imprigionato e mezzo scoperchiato
tra il pietrisco. Può darsi che taluno
ne tragga in salvo qualche foglio, forse
il peggiore e che importa? Il palato,
il gusto degli Dei sarà diverso
dal nostro e non è detto che sia il migliore.
Quello che importa è che dal bulicame
s’affacci qualche cosa che ci dica
non mi conosci, non ti conosco; eppure
abbiamo avuto in sorte la divina follìa
di essere qui e non là, vivi o sedicenti
tali, bambina mia. E ora parti
e non sia troppo chiuso il tuo bagaglio.

 

To a Muse in Training

Stuff your little suitcase
with songs, sacred or profane,
my baby girl
and launch it on the waters,
that the stream may take it far away and then
leave it embedded and half sprung open
in the mire. Possibly some individual
will extract a page to save it, maybe
the worst one, but what matter? The palate,
the taste, of the Gods is likely different
from our own, and it’s no sure thing it’s better.
What’s important is that from the boiling current
some essence emerges to tell us:
you don’t know me, I don’t know you. And yet
we’ve been fated to the divine madness
of existing here and not there, alive, my child,
or telling ourselves as much. Now go,
and may your bag be not too tightly closed.

Excerpts

Two poems, first in Montale's Italian, then in Bradley's English translation, from Late Montale

 

L’Arno a Rovezzano

I grandi fiumi sono l’immagine del tempo,
crudele e impersonale. Osservati da un ponte
dichiarano la loro nullità inesorabile.
Solo l’ansa esitante di qualche paludoso
giuncheto, qualche specchio
che riluca tra folte sterpaglie e borraccina
può svelare che l’acqua come noi pensa se stessa
prima di farsi vortice e rapina.
Tanto tempo è passato, nulla è scorso
da quando ti cantavo al telefono ‘tu
che fai l’addormentata’ col triplice cachinno.
La tua casa era un lampo visto dal treno. Curva
sull’Arno come l’albero di Giuda
che voleva proteggerla. Forse c’è ancora o
non è che una rovina. Tutta piena,
mi dicevi, di insetti, inabitabile.
Altro comfort fa per noi ora, altro
sconforto.

 

The Arno at Rovezzano

Great rivers are the image of time,
cruel and impersonal. Seen from a bridge
they declare their nothingness to be inexorable.
The mere lazy bend beside some swampy
reed-patch, a glassy reflection gleaming
out of scrub growth and moss, can reveal
the way water, like us, thinks about itself
before moving on to whirlpools and destruction.
So much time has gone by and nothing seems past
since I was calling you up to sing that aria, “tu che fai
l’addormentata,”
complete with its cackles of laughter.
Glimpsed from a train, your house was a flash of light.
It leaned over the river, like the Judas-tree
that attempted to protect it. Maybe it still stands,
or maybe it’s nothing but a ruin. Full of flies,
you told me, quite uninhabitable.
It gives us other comfort now, other
discomfort.

 

Alunna delle Muse

Riempi il tuo bauletto
dei tuoi carmina sacra o profana
bimba mia
e gettalo in una corrente
che lo porti lontano e poi lo lasci
imprigionato e mezzo scoperchiato
tra il pietrisco. Può darsi che taluno
ne tragga in salvo qualche foglio, forse
il peggiore e che importa? Il palato,
il gusto degli Dei sarà diverso
dal nostro e non è detto che sia il migliore.
Quello che importa è che dal bulicame
s’affacci qualche cosa che ci dica
non mi conosci, non ti conosco; eppure
abbiamo avuto in sorte la divina follìa
di essere qui e non là, vivi o sedicenti
tali, bambina mia. E ora parti
e non sia troppo chiuso il tuo bagaglio.

 

To a Muse in Training

Stuff your little suitcase
with songs, sacred or profane,
my baby girl
and launch it on the waters,
that the stream may take it far away and then
leave it embedded and half sprung open
in the mire. Possibly some individual
will extract a page to save it, maybe
the worst one, but what matter? The palate,
the taste, of the Gods is likely different
from our own, and it’s no sure thing it’s better.
What’s important is that from the boiling current
some essence emerges to tell us:
you don’t know me, I don’t know you. And yet
we’ve been fated to the divine madness
of existing here and not there, alive, my child,
or telling ourselves as much. Now go,
and may your bag be not too tightly closed.