I limoni

Eugenio Montale

Ascoltami, i poeti laureati
si muovono soltanto fra le piante
dai nomi poco usati: bossi ligustri o acanti.
lo, per me, amo le strade che riescono agli erbosi
fossi dove in pozzanghere
mezzo seccate agguantano i ragazzi
qualche sparuta anguilla:
le viuzze che seguono i ciglioni,
discendono tra i ciuffi delle canne
e mettono negli orti, tra gli alberi dei limoni.

Meglio se le gazzarre degli uccelli
si spengono inghiottite dall’azzurro:
più chiaro si ascolta il susurro
dei rami amici nell’aria che quasi non si muove,
e i sensi di quest’odore
che non sa staccarsi da terra
e piove in petto una dolcezza inquieta.
Qui delle divertite passioni
per miracolo tace la guerra,
qui tocca anche a noi poveri la nostra parte di ricchezza
ed è l’odore dei limoni.

Vedi, in questi silenzi in cui le cose
s’abbandonano e sembrano vicine
a tradire il loro ultimo segreto,
talora ci si aspetta
di scoprire uno sbaglio di Natura,
il punto morto del mondo, l’anello che non tiene,
il filo da disbrogliare che finalmente ci metta
nel mezzo di una verità.
Lo sguardo fruga d’intorno,
la mente indaga accorda disunisce
nel profumo che dilaga
quando il giorno piú languisce.
Sono i silenzi in cui si vede
in ogni ombra umana che si allontana
qualche disturbata Divinità.

Ma l’illusione manca e ci riporta il tempo
nelle città rumorose dove l’azzurro si mostra
soltanto a pezzi, in alto, tra le cimase.
La pioggia stanca la terra, di poi; s’affolta
il tedio dell’inverno sulle case,
la luce si fa avara – amara l’anima.
Quando un giorno da un malchiuso portone
tra gli alberi di una corte
ci si mostrano i gialli dei limoni;
e il gelo dei cuore si sfa,
e in petto ci scrosciano
le loro canzoni
le trombe d’oro della solarità.

The lemon trees

Eugenio Montale

Listen to me, laurel-wreathed poets
move only among plants
with noble names: boxwood acanthus or privets.
I, for one, love roads that lead to grass covered
ditches where in partly
desiccated puddles children
catch the occasional eel:
the lanes that coast these banks
descend through tufts of cane
and open onto orchards thick with lemons.

Better if the chirruping of the birds
dissolves, swallowed by the azure:
more clearly, then, resounds the murmur
of the amicable branches in an air that is almost still,
and the essences of this fragrance
which cannot separate itself from the terrain
and showers our breast with tumultuous stillness.
Here our unsettling passions
are miraculously put to rest,
here we poor beings too may enjoy our share of wealth
and it’s the fragrance of the lemons.

You see, in this silence in which all things
abandon themselves and seem close
to betraying their ultimate secret,
we sometimes expect
to find a fault in Nature,
the dead nub of the earth, the weak link,
the thread that untangled finally places us
within reach of a truth.
Our eyes search all around,
our mind probes accords partitions
in the fragrance that sweeps over us
when the day is most sluggish.
It is the stillness in which we see
in every human shadow that drifts away
some disturbed Deity.

But the illusion is incomplete and time restores us
to the noisy cities where the azure appears
in wedges, high above us, between the cornices.
The rain then wearies the earth; the tedium
of winter thickens over the houses,
the light becomes dim – grim the soul.
Then one day through a half-open gate
among the trees in an orchard
we see a glimpse of yellow lemons;
and the ice in our hearts melts,
and in our breast thunder
their songs
the golden trumpets of radiance.

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi

Limoni is the opening poem in Eugenio Montale’s collection Cuttlebones, in the section called In limine. It is one of Montale’s most famous poems because it a sort of manifesto for the poet’s future works. He starts by asking us to listen, then immediately distances himself from the poetry of the past (D’Annunzio in particular, identified in the “poeti laureati”) and the prestigious language that identified it ( not normal plants but “bossi ligustri o acanti”). His own poetry will deal more with the life of every man: the puddles, the lanes, and the lemon trees that describe the Ligurian landscape.

Montale, therefore, distances himself from poetry that meant to reveal a “superior” truth, and presents poetry that is nothing but fragments of fleeting happiness. These moments are so rare that those who have been touched by them are seen as “Divinità”, deities.  The poetry is secular and philosophical, there are no super-humans, no religion. The “male di vivere”, the pain of living, which the poet perceives is always lurking in the shadows. And yet, a glimpse of that happiness is possible through that half open gate that looks onto an orchard and the yellow lemons, as radiant as the sun.

If Montale, as he himself stated in 1946, wanted to “turn his head” from past literary models, and “the eloquence of our ancient refined tongue” ,  I limoni is, however, on a technical and rhetorical level, anything but unrefined.  Hidden in the poem are hendecasyllables and septenaries (often double) linked by rhyme (“laureati | usati”; “indaga | dilaga”) and a careful phonic form. There are numerous dry, harsh sounds like “mezzo seccate”; “le viuzze”; and “gazzarre” etc. as well as an attentive imagery, which closes the poem with the famous words “trombe d’oro della solarità”, golden trumpets of radiance. I have tried to reproduce the sounds, the music: as always, much is lost in translation. -M.C.

Painting: The lemon tree, Henry Scott Tuke (1858- 1929)

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5 thoughts on “I limoni/The lemon trees by Eugenio Montale

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